The scene on Monday at Rock Run Rookery Preserve in Joliet. (Photo by Glenn P. Knoblock)
The latest viral challenge sweeping over social media is something the Forest Preserve District can wholeheartedly get behind.
The #TrashTag challenge started trending on Twitter this past weekend, with people posting before-and-after photos of the natural spaces they have cleaned up. The results have been impressive, with some people posting photos of trash-littered landscapes for the before and then dozens of trash bags sitting on the now-cleaned land as the after.
The weekend movement started as a call to action for "bored teens," but anyone can participate in this do-good-feel-good challenge. All you need is a little time and a plastic bag — and maybe some plastic gloves.
Here in Will County, the timing is perfect for the TrashTag challenge, because as winter comes to a welcome end we tend to see more garbage.
"Typically, this time of year it's more visible," said John Fay, director of maintenance and operations for the Forest Preserve District.
One reason we see more litter this time of year is because we are out and about more as the weather improves. In addition, as the snow and plow piles melt, it uncovers litter and garbage that had previously been covered. And within the preserves, operations crews don't do as much routine cleaning and picking up of litter during the winter months, Fay said.
Any time you have to pick up trash goes a long way, because cleaning up litter is an expensive endeavor. About $11.5 billion is spent annually on litter cleanup and prevention, according to Keep America Beautiful. In recreational spaces, litter is equally split between small items like cigarette butts and large items like food packaging and beverage containers, according to a Keep America Beautiful study on litter in America.
Of course, not letting garbage become litter in the first place is the best course of action. To that end, the Forest Preserve District has garbage cans at trailheads and access points of its preserves.
With temperatures forecast to soar into the 60s, this week is the perfect time to bring the #TrashTag challenge here to Will County. If you head out to enjoy the springlike weather in the preserves, bring along a bag and some gloves and pick up the litter you see along the way. Make sure to use #TrashTag and tag us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
The Forest Preserve District also has a few upcoming programs that tie into the TrashTag mission. Visitors to Monee Reservoir can participate in the Fishing for Trash program from April 23 through April 28 and again from May 14 through May 28. Stop by the concession window to pick up a bag and some gloves, then fill the bag with trash during your visit to turn in for a free gift. Also in April, Rock Run Rookery in Joliet will host a River Shoreline Cleanup on April 27, with participants pitching in to clean the rookery's shoreline.