TULALIP — When the crew started the morning’s work one day last week, the sidewalk along the Quil Ceda Creek bridge was layered in trash.
A few hours and more than 75 garbage bags later, the ground was clear of wrappers, bottles and other junk.
“We go where the garbage is,” said Casey Jones, who oversaw the handiwork by a new seasonal litter squad.
Jones is assigned to lead a six-person team of temporary Snohomish County employees dubbed “the Litter Wranglers.” Since May, they have been heading out each weekday to tidy up shoulders, sidewalks and other messy spots along county roads. That work has already taken them from Darrington to Lynnwood, and quite a few places in between.
So far, they’ve worked nearly 150 miles of road and collected more than 1,500 trash bags. Put another way, they’ve hauled off about 35 yards of litter, including items such as microwaves and tires.
Through the rest of the summer, people can report trash trouble spots by calling 425-388-7500 or emailing PWRM@co.snohomish.wa.us. They’ll aim to respond within a week.
The four-month pilot is run by the Solid Waste and Roads divisions of the Public Works Department. It’s called the Clean Sweep Litter Program.
“We’ll target areas that are known and areas that are reported to us,” county solid waste director Matt Zybas said.
The new crew supplements the county’s Adopt-A-Road volunteer program. The temporary employees are all trained as flaggers. Their extra safety awareness helps them work in areas that might not be as appropriate for volunteers, for example near blind spots, around heavy traffic or in areas without road shoulders.
In the past, the county roads crew did that work, when possible. The solid waste division would help out. The new approach should allow those employees to focus on their core tasks, Zybas said.
“Next year, we’ll probably evaluate how to improve upon the program or to maintain it at its current level,” he said.
Clean Sweep is getting about $120,000 in funding. Two-thirds of that comes from the Solid Waste Division, which is funded by garbage revenue, rather than taxes. The road maintenance division is chipping in the rest.
For cleanup on state roads, the Department of Transportation oversees an Adopt-A-Highway volunteer program. Through August, the Department of Ecology plans to field teams of paid teenage litter crews through its Ecology Youth Corps. A litter hotline the Ecology Department used to run has been suspended since 2011 due to state budget cuts.
Back near Quil Ceda Creek, just west of I-5, Jones admired his team’s work. Until this assignment, he had been working at the North County Recycling &Transfer Station in Arlington, where the impact of the work wasn’t always obvious. It’s been nice to see the fruits of their labor in the form of a prettier streetscape.
“We get a lot of thumbs up as we’re going through the neighborhoods,” Jones said.
People can notify Snohomish County of litter problems by calling 425-388-7500 or emailing PWRM@co.snohomish.wa. us.
Residents can also participate in picking up litter by joining the county’s Adopt-A-Road program, which is a partnership between volunteers and Snohomish County Public Works to keep roadsides free of litter. To sign up, call Adele Barilleaux, program coordinator, at 425-388-3137.