The city's most renowned "Trash Guru", retiree Boris Weinstein, visited Arlington with tips on how to keep the streets of their neighborhood from being overrun by litter.
"I had a choice to make when I retired, play golf or pick up litter? ," said Mr. Weinstein a Shady Side resident who began his crusade against litter throughout the city when he retired from the marketing/advertising profession four years ago.
"I'd rather pick up a whole lot of litter rather than make a hole in one," quipped the retiree who got a chuckle from the audience with that corny line.
Mr. Weinstein addressed a crowd of residents at the Arlington Civic Council meeting on May 5 at the Henry Kaufmann Center on Salisbury Street.
"I love picking up litter," he said. "Nothing could be finer than to cleanup a street and see it looking so clean afterward."
The residents in the audience were pretty much in agreement with the Trash Guru. Many of them say they make a habit of picking up litter in their immediate area around their homes.
Mr. Weinstein has organized "Citizens Against Litter" in various neighborhoods throughout the city, most notably in the east end such as Shady Side, Squirrel Hill and Homewood along with various parts of the North Side. He has started to branch his efforts out to the south hilltop area in recent months as well as the West End.
Mr. Weinstein also had a hand in many of the organized pick-up campaigns during the Earth Day activities last month (the long weekends of April 18-20 and April 25-27) that not only involved almost every city neighborhood, but also many communities in Beaver County and various suburban neighborhoods in Allegheny County. There were 183 communities in a two-county area that included more than 12,000 volunteers in conjunction with Earth Day and more than 100 tons of litter was picked up and sent to landfills.
He presented an "11-step" approach for picking up litter in Arlington. Some of the basic ideas presented in his plan is to divide Arlington into various sectors where a core group of residents are responsible for cleaning up on a weekly basis. He believes it would take at least 12 residents per sector to pick up the litter in each zone. The volunteers should be picking up in the zone in which they live. The goal would be to get at least 50 to 100 volunteers, roughly five percent of Arlington's estimated population.
While each zone should be policed for litter on a regular basis, a massive organized cleanup should take place for the whole neighborhood about once a month, particularly during the warmer weather months from spring to fall.
He also suggested getting the local schools involved by contacting the principal of that school. Mr. Weinstein refers to it as a "Litter Education 101" program. Principals should have their students, supervised by the teachers, clean up around the school grounds at least once a week.
In addition to picking up basic litter, Mr. Weinstein made suggestions on how to attack abandoned-car problems and graffiti problems. He also suggested monitoring vacant and dilapidated dwellings in Arlington. Inquiries should be directed to the city's Bureau of Building Inspection (BBI) by calling 412-255-2175.
Mr. Weinstein also suggests identifying vacant lots in Arlington. He noted that Mayor Luke Ravenstahl recently announced the creation of a "Green Team" to beautify vacant lots and demolition sites. Public Works and the Department of Neighborhood Initiatives are involved in this program.
"Be pro-active," he said. "Find out the status of things in Arlington. Contact Kevin Quigley and Kim Graziani [of the Mayor's Office] at 412-255-2792. Monitor the situation with illegal dumpsites. Be specific when giving the location of the sites [to the city]."
Mr. Weinstein said that illegal dumping in isolated, non-inhabited areas, such as those over hillsides, are best addressed by the city public works crews who are trained and have the equipment to remove tires, refrigerators and other major appliances, etc.
However, he said the responsibility of picking up the trash on residential, heavily-traveled streets rests with the citizenry of a community. Being organized and being committed are the keys to keeping any neighborhood safe and clean. He did have one important suggestion if one sees someone else throwing a can, a bottle or a bag of fast-food debris on the ground or in the weeds. Do not confront the inconsiderate litter-bug. He said that may lead to trouble. It is best just to pick up the trash.
"The mission of what I do is to not only pick up litter, but to connect neighbors and neighborhoods together," Mr. Weinstein said. "What we are doing in Pittsburgh right now, is the best city-wide cleanup program in the country.
"Some people tell me, ‘Boris, get a life.' I tell them, I've got a life. We are on the fast-track to cleaning up the city."
He said some of his friends and acquaintances have told him that he spends too much time picking up litter, but he notes he has time for traditional social activities such as going to the movies, golf or dancing. He just enjoys cleaning up the streets of the city he is proud to call home.
"People who care, must pick up," Mr. Weinstein said.