You may have seen it. We bet you’ve noticed.

piles of trash next to a neighborhood driveway
unauthorized dump site with abandoned furniture
illegal dump site under railroad overpass

In early 2021, due to the effects of the pandemic and other factors, the City of Springfield and community partners received lot of comments and complaints about the amount of trash along our roadways. We also sensed a burst of energy from the community and willingness to get out, be active and make an impact. To leverage this momentum and give Springfield a boost of positivity coming out of the pandemic, the City formed a multi-departmental team to work alongside community partners and sponsors to develop a menu of ways the community could help clean up and green up Springfield.

Activities were focused in the months of April through June, 2021 to align with Earth Day, Arbor Day and natural spring cleaning and landscaping routines. Opportunities were offered to accommodate a variety of physical abilities and time commitment levels for individuals, families, volunteer teams and businesses.

These activities were meant to serve as a catalyst for:

  • Deeper, broader community discussions about community beautification, ownership and pride
  • New, improved, smarter municipal regulations and practices around trash, the environment and neighborhoods and penalties associated with illegal dumping
  • Increased number of registered neighborhoods
  • Increased numbers of citizen groups or members of groups dedicated to the beautification cause
  • Individual and organizational behavior change regarding trash / litter

Overarching project goals:

  • Use the series of cleanup and greenup events as a catalyst for making Springfield the cleanest, most attractive city in the state of Missouri
  • End littering
  • Beautify our community
  • Ensure our community is complying with state and federal water quality and solid waste regulations
  • Increase awareness, community pride, and feelings of community ownership

Results:

Nearly 1,000 volunteers and more than 1,600 participating households took part in Clean Green Springfield activities. Volunteers helped remove more than 11 tons of litter from our streets and waterways, with more than 200 tons of trash/bulky items disposed of properly.

The Problem

Why is this happening? Where is this trash coming from?

The simple answer is, it’s coming from YOU.

  • Litter is intentionally tossed out windows, or unintentionally blows out of uncovered trailers and truck beds.
  • Residents choose to dump their household waste and bulky items in an illegal location because they may not have the resources to properly dispose of it.
  • Regular trash cleanup and volunteer initiatives on a local and state level were suspended due to funding and public health concerns related to COVID.

Environmental Services staff members are currently creating a litter index to help measure litter amounts across town and have completed a trash assessment in Springfield streams. They found on average 155 pieces of trash in a 100-foot stream section (628,324 total in Springfield area streams). Nearly 60% of trash found in streams is plastic and on average there were 14 cigarette butts found in the stream (57,797 cigarette butts in Springfield area streams).

Citizens reported to the Citizen Resource Center more than 1,000 complaints about trash and debris in the right-of-way and more than 2000 trash-related nuisances on private property in 2019.

The dashboard below provides a snapshot of what we knew of Springfield’s litter problem prior to launching the Clean Green Springfield initiative.

The City of Springfield has been monitoring the amount of litter collected through existing programs such as Adopt-A-Stream and Adopt-A-Street for years. These litter amounts, combined with information from a recent Stream Trash Assessment and an ongoing Clean Green Litter Index Survey Pilot, begin to paint a picture of the types of litter Springfield struggles with most and the areas where we see the biggest problems. By continuing to study litter in our community, we hope to continue to plan programs and initiatives to specifically target the sources of that pollution.

Why this matters!

What goes on our streets ends up in our streams. Keeping our water resources clean starts with putting trash in its place – the trash can!

Litter in our community gets washed into storm drains when it rains and ends up in our streams. Based on local stream assessments, it’s estimated that there are over 600,000 pieces of trash in Springfield streams, 60% of which is plastic. Cigarette butts are also a commonly littered item with an estimated 50,000 butts in local streams. Trash affects the use and enjoyment of waterways and trails for popular recreational activities and is a source of pollution that impacts water quality, aquatic life and animals.

Learn more from the Missouri Department of Conservation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

This is also a community pride issue.

Taking pride in our community means taking responsibility and each doing our part. As Springfield begins to pull itself from the dregs of the pandemic, it’s an important time to take a look around at our individual and community-wide habits and make a change.