What We Learned While Volunteering At South Park

What We Learned While Volunteering At South Park

 

Although our company is rooted in recycling, it’s important to all of us at RoadRunner that we give back to our local communities & the causes we believe in. On RoadRunner Day 2019 (RoadRunner's fifth anniversary) we volunteered at South Park, one of the nine parks operated by Allegheny County. We spent the day clearing foliage to make room for plant & vegetation growth, picking up 40+ bags of litter, and we learned a whole lot along the way. Read on to learn more about our volunteer experience, our conversation with Lead Supervisory Park Ranger for Allegheny County Parks, Braden Meiter, and what we can all do to help preserve our local parks!

 

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An Overview of South Park

South Park was established in 1927, only 8 years after The National Park Service was established. Encompassing 2,000+ acres of land, South Park is the second largest of the Allegheny Parks and it provides a variety of entertainment for visitors including sports facilities, swimming pools, an ice-skating rink, and biking & hiking trails. We had the opportunity to ask Lead Supervisory Park Ranger, Braden Meiter, about the common challenges that South Park and others like it face. “Management issues are varied and include everything from illegal dumping, feeding wildlife, illegal trail building, and natural occurrences, like flash flooding. All of these are common problems that face just about any park system that you might visit,” explained Braden.

Throughout the day, we filled 40+ garbage bags full of litter and debris, which is an on-going task for even the cleanest of parks. Braden told us the most common types of litter include fast food waste and drink bottles, litter leftover from parties, and trash thrown out of car windows. He explained when the garbage is improperly thrown away, animals like raccoons and opossums get into the trash and spread it around, and wind disperses it around the park grounds.

Braden said the most detrimental litter issue is from illegal dumping in the parks, or people looking to dispose of large items and landscaping materials. “We find everything,” said Braden, “old shrubs, piles of leaves and yard waste, construction materials, general house hold trash, TVs, and even a bowling ball.” He went on to say, “One of the best ways to prevent littler in the parks is to educate the public about the negative effects that it has on the parks. Not only is it unsightly, but it can attract pests, and large illegal dumping causes significant resource damage."

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The Impacts Of Mismanaged Trash

We have a major trash problem in the United States. Each year, Americans generate more than 250 million tons of waste, two-thirds of which ends up in landfills or the environment (EPA). In the last 50 years, plastics have become one of the biggest threats to our environment because they do not biodegrade. Instead, they break down into tiny particles known as microplastics, which are easily carried by the wind and our water systems, circulating far and wide and remaining in our environment forever. Plastic debris is undoubtedly one the planet's biggest pollution problems, impacting cities, parks, beaches, and communities around the world.

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How To Preserve The Parks

Better waste management = cleaner parks. Following these 4 R’s when managing your waste will help preserve the parks:

REFUSE disposable plastics whenever possible.

REDUCE your plastic footprint by cutting down on goods that have excessive plastic packaging.

REUSE durable goods like water bottles, coffee mugs, straws & reusable bags.

RECYCLE what you can’t refuse, reduce, or reuse.

The most effective way to keep our environment clean is to prevent the waste at its source, also known as source reduction or pollution prevention. So, the next time you’re visiting a park, remember to keep the 4 R's in mind, clean up after yourself, and properly dispose of your waste. And of course, when it comes to illegal dumping, always remember that parks are not a landfill! There are countless resources available to help you recycle or properly dispose of large amounts of wastes. If you have any questions, our dedicated team of recycling experts are always happy to help guide you in the right direction.

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"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”
- MARGARET MEAD

A big thank you to everyone at South Park for having us and a special thanks to Braden Meiter for answering our questions and sharing his thoughts. If you're looking to get involved in your community, we recommend volunteering with an organization you care about. Leave a comment below to tell us how your business plans on getting involved or let us know about your favorite volunteer experience!