MEMPHIS, Tenn. — An initiative started in 2014 with the goal of eliminating Memphis’ litter problem by 2019 hasn’t gone anywhere or received any funding, until now.
The Greater Memphis Chamber enacted “Memphis Clean by 2019” in 2014, which set a goal to improve on the litter issue by the city’s bicentennial celebration in May 2019.
That plan grew into Memphis Transformed, a two-year campaign slated to begin later this year that aims to educate residents about sustainability practices and recycling, as well as to fix both the litter and blight issues in Memphis.
Janet Boscarino, the executive director of Clean Memphis, the non-profit now in charge of the sustainability efforts, said Memphis residents have gotten better in recent years, but their sustainability efforts and education still must increase.
“I think there’s a lot of interest in it, and there’s more conversation around it,” Boscarino said. “But we have a long way to go to help people understand.”
Boscarino said the “Clean by 2019” campaign was not intended to set a deadline, but to act as a catalyst for cleaning the city. That catalyst will soon speed up the process of Memphis going green.
“This is a long, long-term process to change the attitudes and behaviors of people in Memphis as it relates to litter, waste management and property maintenance,” Boscarino said.
She said the Chamber recently set aside $500,000 for the campaign, which will now begin its fundraising.
“We needed to get staffing in place that will handle the increase in participation for projects and for educational outreach,” Boscarino said. “The Chamber has provided some resources to Clean Memphis to support additional staff for community engagement and project facilitation.”
Unlike “Clean by 2019,” Memphis Transformed focuses on more than litter. The campaign, which is a cooperative between all Memphis sustainability organizations, will educate residents about how to live green and try to cut down on blight.
Boscarino said the goal is to completely change how Memphis residents view waste and property maintenance. She knows that’s no easy task.
The campaign will divide the city into smaller zones, which generally will follow neighborhood boundaries. Boscarino said the zones make it easier to focus on the residents of each area and their needs specifically.
“I have yet to find a neighborhood that doesn’t have people in it that are interested and invested and wanting to do something in their community,” Boscarino said. “We just need to connect with other people and get the resources they need to fix some of these issues.”
One of those zones, the Heights, includes Highland Heights and Mitchell Heights.
John Gilpin lives at a house in Highland Heights that sits at a stop sign, and that may be the reason drivers toss litter out by his property. He said he sees litter all over the place in his neighborhood, and he was outside picking up litter on the curb by his house when WREG stopped by.
“I don’t particularly mind (picking up the litter),” Gilpin said. “It’s just a shame.”
Gilpin said people will eventually come pick up trash in the area if it gets bad enough, but he hopes that younger people will take it upon themselves to think about where their trash is going.
Boscarino said Memphis produces about 1.7 million tons of waste each year, and residents generally do not think about their trash after it’s tossed. She hopes to be an agent for this change.