November 21, 2019 Rubbish

3,700 miles and 2,152 pieces of litter picked up

Adam drove cross country from New York City to San Francisco and did a rubbish run at each stop. Read his story → 

I started the journey with a car loaded with clothes, snacks, and a place to sleep for the next 2 days. After that, all I knew is that I would continue driving West. My friends and family were following my journey in real-time, and giving me advice on where to stay, weather updates and the best driving routes. 

I decided to do a rubbish run in each city because I was inspired by my brother’s efforts in San Francisco. I was curious about the data they collected on litter in Russian Hill, and curious how different cities compare to each other. If I was already driving, then why not?

I used the rubbish app to log my rubbish runs, and it was cool to see my litter stats after each one. Check out the chart below, comparing litter at each city, as well as Litter per Minute — which tracks litter over time spent cleaning. I always used a rubbish beam, my own trash bag that I’d empty out into the city trash cans on the corners and a fully charged phone. At each stop I added my rubbish run summary, as well as some photos of me and/or the beam, to an Imgur album that you can find here

Litter statistics by city, with LPM (litter per minute) for each city.

Stop # 1: Philadephia, PA — I started with one stretch of street near the University of Pennslyvania campus. It was the middle of the afternoon, and the streets had a lot of people. Total: 284 pieces/40 min.

Stop # 2: Cumberland, MD — I was mostly surprised that while my rubbish run lasted the same amount of time, it took me several more blocks to collect the same amount of litter that took one block in Philly. Total: 283 pieces/42 min.

The Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Indianapolis, IN

Stop # 3: Indianapolis, IN — My rubbish run was around the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, which is actually 15 feet shorter than the Statue of Liberty. It was the middle of the day and pretty empty. Total: 338 pieces/60 min.

Stop # 4: Saint Louis, MO — A rubbish run by the Gateway Arch, which was emptier than expected; I thought it would be more crowded. The park nearby was beautiful and that’s where I decided to do a rubbish run. It’s the first city that was cold. Total: 139 pieces/48 min.

After my rubbish run by the Gateway Arch.

Stop # 5: Kansas City, MO — This was the first city that I switched from a plastic bag to a paper bag, which made a world of difference. I went to Joe’s BBQ, which was delicious. On the rubbish run, I found a lot more glass trash than any city so far. Total: 234 pieces/45 min.

A snowy Jeep in Boulder, Colorado.

Stop # 6: Washington, UT — This was a nighttime rubbish run, and the lights of the rubbish beam lit my run. I got scared by the church bells that rang from the Washington City Museum. Total: 108 pieces/35 min.

Stop # 7: Las Vegas, NV — The rubbish run was off the strip. This was the first time I saw such tall palm streets. Total: 143 pieces/37 min.

Stop # 8: Bishop, CA — My t-mobile service could have been better. And, I did this hike in Death Valley. Total: 104 pieces/32 min.

Death Valley

Stop # 9: San Francisco, CA — I arrived on Halloween and the car’s costume was “road-trip”. He had a nice layer of dust from driving through California. My rubbish run in San Francisco was with my brother and a few friends, which felt great. It’s great to do by myself, but it was more fun with friends. Total: 519 pieces/76 min.

Me, my brother and our friend Felipe

Overall, San Francisco has the highest LPM (litter per minute), followed by Indianapolis, IN. Tobacco was the largest percent of litter in every city, followed by paper and plastic.

I learned a couple of things along the way: 

  • a large brown paper bag is much easier to use than a plastic bag. It doesn’t get carried by the wind and holds its shape much better.
  • I always kept a spare plastic bag in my pocket, just in case my bag broke or I needed an extra bag. 
  • People were curious! Folks in almost every city stopped me and asked what I was doing. Everyone was grateful, and several people actually told me that they do the same thing in their neighborhoods too.
  • I always made sure my phone was charged and tested syncing to the rubbish beam before heading out on my rubbish run.  

If you wanted to check out some of my favorite photos I took along the way check out my Google Photos album.

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