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This Week In Litter – Clean Sweep: 500 Block of Elmwood

When Dave Cosentino, owner of Trattoria Aroma, called me a couple of weeks ago, saying that he couldn’t believe all of the litter on the 500 block of Elmwood, we decided that it was time to get to work cleaning. Our first call was to Rocco Termini, owner of Thin Man Brewery (located on the 500 block), to see if he would help us with some reinforcements. Rocco told us that he had heard that the City had purchased a couple of new street sweepers, and reached out to the Department of Public Works (DPW) to see if there was a way that we could coordinate an effort to get the street cleaned.

When there are few garbage cans and no ashtrays, people use the planters

It turns out that the biggest problem with getting the street sweepers out onto the street, is the issue of the parked cars that make it impossible to do the job properly. If the street isn’t cleared of cars, then there’s not much for the street sweepers to do. Seeing that we had some ‘recruits’ to help tackle the sidewalks – sweeping the debris out into the street – the City stepped up and conducted a ‘no parking during the hours of 8am-11am’ strategy, that resulted in posted signs being strewn along the parking meters, street signs, trees, etc.

(L-R) Dave and Rocco

With the plan in place, Dave, Rocco, and I set out to sweep the sidewalks bright and early on Saturday, as we awaited the arrival of the street sweepers. Leading the effort by the DPW was Henry Jackson, who flagged us down to give us the play-by-play on the City’s street cleaning tactic. Henry told us that everything was in place to get the 500 block looking sparkling clean.

“These new street sweepers (lead image) are like driving little space shuttles,” Henry told me [laughing]. “They’re amazing, and they do a great job.”

Not only was one of the City’s new street sweeper on its way, DPW was also sending a street washer unit that would spray the street clean once the sweeper had done its job.

If you’ve ever wondered why you don’t see these street sweepers out on patrol more often, it’s because it really does take a coordinated effort between the commercial/residential community and the City to make the effort worthwhile. It might be annoying to lose some parking spaces for a couple of hours, but the end result is worth any of the hassles incurred. I highly suggest that other commercial districts that are suffering from litter and sludge buildup work with the DPW to orchestrate similar coordinated cleanups.

Not much that we could do about these chewed up sidewalks
The number of cigarette butts that we cleaned up was astounding

Next summer, we’re hoping to replicate this initiative along the 500 block of Elmwood a couple of times throughout the course of the summer. In the meantime, it would be great to see some of the business owners out there with brooms-in-hand, at least once a week. As the 500 block builds up momentum, hopefully there will be additional players who participate in neighborhood beautification measures.

Sad sack planters – they are not only falling apart, with dead plants and weeds, they also tend to collect trash and cigarette butts

Back in the day, business owners took pride in sweeping up in front of their shops. These days… not so much. Now that they have seen that there are others who are willing to pitch in, they might consider practicing some upkeep measures. It’s really not that hard if there is an ongoing concerted effort, instead of waiting for the mess to build up.

One of the newest forms of litter – plastic vape cases. We came across tons of these (and the caps) – right up there with PPE masks and lottery tickets

As for the cigarette butts and the vape jewel cases, there should be an additional tax imposed on manufacturers, distributors, sellers, etc. That tax should be dedicated solely to communities that are constantly battling the filth. The funds would create a workforce of people who would be hired to keep our neighborhoods clean. We need to start taking the Extended Producer Responsibility measures more seriously. In the meantime, the big companies make the big bucks, and leave the little guys to clean up their mess.

Written by queenseyes


Newell Nussbaumer is 'queenseyes' - Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside, Buffalo Porchfest, and Paint vs. Paint. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market on Elmwood. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at Statler City, the Hertel Alley Street Art Festival, and The Flutterby Festival.

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