Cleaner Columbus Initiative Partners to Address Litter with Jobs and Volunteers

City Council Member Emmanuel Remy Op-Ed in the Dispatch, June 15

Council Member Emmanuel Remy, Chair of the City’s Environment Committee
Jenny Garin, an elementary school teacher, and her sons, Benny, 3, and Darin, 7, pick up litter outside their home on the South Side. Eric Albrecht, Dispatch File

Remy chairs the Environment Committee for Columbus City Council. His op-ed outlines the work that has been accomplished in partnership with Keep Columbus Beautiful and volunteers organized to clean up litter and debris from the streets of Columbus. Excerpts from the op-ed are included below. Read the full article here.

As chair of the Environment Committee, I and my team began to think about how to take a more holistic approach to address litter. While we were forced to shelter in place during the pandemic, we also saw an uptick in residential waste.

While working with Keep Columbus Beautiful, our goal was to increase the number of volunteer clean-ups city-wide and to increase community awareness through education and partnerships. But like most things in 2020, our plans were met with challenges. It forced us to think outside the box, which led us to the Cleaner Columbus Initiative. 

The first step was to pilot the Cleaner Columbus Employment Program. In November 2020, I asked my council colleagues and the mayor to support allocating $250,000 to hire unemployed and underemployed residents at $15 per hour to help clean up litter hotspots defined by the Division of Refuse in five targeted neighborhoods, especially along major thoroughfares. The pilot program exceeded our expectations. During the three-week program, workers collected 53% of the total weight of litter collected in 2019 – or nearly 174,000 pounds.

In 2021, our initiative to create a Cleaner Columbus became a multi-pronged approach and includes: Allocating $550,000 to nonprofit community partners to help coordinate the Cleaner Columbus Employment Program this spring and fall. Our nonprofit partners this spring – Franklinton Board of Trade, Community Development for All People, St. Stephen’s Community House, Us Together, and Columbus Next Generation – have hired residents as a type of “strike force” to help clean up problem areas. The first cohort is near completion.

A $2 million investment was announced last month by Mayor Andrew J. Ginther and the city council for a youth employment program for this summer. Their partner, the YMCA Earth Service Corps, will hire 400 young people ages 16-24 to pick up litter. 

The challenge: Volunteer clean-up events work, and the city is asking community groups and local businesses to organize a clean-up event with co-workers or neighbors. For more information, visit columbus.gov/CleanerColumbus or call 614-645-3559. Read the full article here.