Mt. Airy couple forms ‘team’ to tackle trash

by Samuel Frost
Posted 4/15/21

When Natalie Sloane and her partner Brody Rosenfeld moved to their new home last year, they began picking up trash that they found on the street and formed the Mt. Airy Trash Team to tackle the problem of litter in their neighborhood.

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Mt. Airy couple forms ‘team’ to tackle trash

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When Natalie Sloane and her partner Brody Rosenfeld moved to their new home last year, they began picking up trash that they found on the street and formed the Mt. Airy Trash Team to tackle the problem of litter in their neighborhood.

Sloane and Rosenfeld noticed litter on the street outside of their house shortly after moving to West Mt. Airy in February of 2020.

“When we moved here, we realized that trash was starting to accumulate, I think our home was a construction site and nobody lived here for a while,” Rosenfeld said.

“I started picking up a couple of pieces and eventually I got a grabber and a bucket, and once you have that setup, you might as well keep walking.”

Along the way, he met many neighbors who thanked him for cleaning the street, and several offered to join in the effort themselves.

“I had a conversation with one neighbor named Jen, who basically encouraged me to write on the Listserv to see if we could get a team going,” he said.

“So I sent an email and said, ‘this is what I’ve been doing, does anybody want to join me?’”

Rosenfeld says that they received a dozen replies from their neighbors in the surrounding blocks, and had the first meeting of the Mt. Airy Trash Team shortly after.

The organization decided to take an approach where volunteers clean their respective blocks weekly and the entire group conducts a large trash sweep each month.

Picking up trash by yourself can be frustrating, Sloane said.

“If you know that other people are out there and have similar missions and that you’re not alone, then that can feel really impactful.”

“We try to make it social. We get together and sit around a bonfire,” Rosenfeld said.

“Picking up trash is not physically a problem if you have the right gear, but it can wear on you mentally, so the community aspect really offsets that.”

At an MLK Day cleanup in Germantown, Sloane and Rosenfeld heard from many long-term residents that neighborhoods used to manage their own street litter, and this was a common practice in the past.

“We heard this a lot, that you used to sweep your stoop and pick up the papers, and it’s like that culture doesn’t exist anymore,” Sloane said.

“I don’t know where that went, but to me it feel important. Why don’t we as an able-bodied younger generation go the extra step to make it a clean community?”

Inspired by the MLK Day cleanup, they also realized that their smaller group could meet more often to make a greater environmental impact, she said.

“You go into the Wissahickon and you want to see the streams, you don’t want to see bags floating in it,” she said.

“It feels closer to home when you’re going out and seeing the exact environment that it’s impacting.”

Cleaning litter is not only environmentally important, Rosenfeld said, but it can also be a source of community pride.

“It’s good for your mental health, and it just feels good when your streets are clean.”

The group hopes to inspire other local neighborhoods to start up their own trash collection efforts.

“The ultimate goal would be having litter free streets, and it feels like in a place like Mt. Airy that is very doable, but it requires a little bit of effort from everyone,” Sloane said.

“Ultimately, if people just pick up the little stray pieces of trash at the end of the day, that’s really impactful.”

The Mt. Airy Trash Team will be meeting for an Arbor Day cleanup on Saturday, April 24 at 11 am. Interested participants should bring their own gear, trash bags will be provided.

For more information, contact Natalie Sloane at nssloane@gmail.com.

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