Guest column: ‘Stash your trash,’ keep Tahoe clean (opinion) | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Guest column: ‘Stash your trash,’ keep Tahoe clean (opinion)

Catherine Cecchi
Guest Column

Clean Tahoe, a nonprofit that provides litter abatement services, recently wrapped up its fiscal year.

As we all know, Lake Tahoe is a spectacular place. Visitors come from all over the world to see and experience the lake's clear waters and to immerse themselves in the surrounding forests and trails.

Those of us who live here have the great privilege of experiencing this beautiful place on a daily basis and of course none of us want to see trash in our environment. Luckily, we usually don't see a lot of litter in South Tahoe compared to some other areas, but that isn't because the litter doesn't exist — it is because of the hard work of the Clean Tahoe Program's field crew.

Clean Tahoe is a nonprofit that contracts with the city of South Lake Tahoe and El Dorado County to provide litter abatement services. We recently wrapped up our fiscal year and the statistics of what our two-person field crew picked up from South Tahoe's roadways and neighborhoods is staggering. Consider a few highlights:

Total Litter/Debris Collected: 484 Cubic Yards (almost 5 CUBIC football fields!)

We host volunteer cleanup events, promote our “Be Bear Aware” outreach campaign, clean abandoned homeless camps, and coordinate with local enforcement agencies regarding garbage issues.

Illegal Dump Cleanups: 189 (including 63 mattresses, 86 pieces of furniture, 49 appliances, and 97 TVs)

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Animal-in-Trash Incidents/Cleanups: 493

Repeat Offender Animal-in-Trash Incidents: 102

Incidents Sent to SLT City Code Enforcement: 155

While cleaning up illegal dumps is a large part of what we do, Clean Tahoe's field crew members also follow scheduled routes through our neighborhoods to ensure compliance with local garbage containment ordinances and to pick up loose litter from the area.

We host volunteer cleanup events, promote our "Be Bear Aware" outreach campaign, clean abandoned homeless camps, and coordinate with local enforcement agencies regarding garbage issues.

As we reflect on the past year, of particular concern is the number of incidents where animals — usually bears but also coyotes, raccoons and even dogs — have knocked over trash cans or accessed dumpsters in search of food.

At certain times of year our crew spends most of its workday cleaning animal-in-trash incidents, and those are just the ones that we come across or receive reports about; we know there are many more that go unreported.

And while many locals might assume visitors are the only ones who let bears get into their trash, we see just as great a number of problems occurring at full-time residences and multi-family complexes.

While we are committed to cleaning up those messes so litter doesn't spread through our neighborhoods, we'd ideally like to prevent them from happening in the first place.

As a community, it's time we make it a priority to protect wildlife and keep our trash contained. Please help us keep our community clean by following a few simple tips:

Do not put food-related garbage out until the morning of your trash collection day (unless you have a metal bear bin).

If you don't have a bear bin, consider installing one — it's a great investment and there is now a no-interest loan program where you can finance the cost through South Tahoe Refuse (call them for details at 530-541-5105).

Be sure all trash cans have a tight-fitting lid.

Always keep dumpsters locked when not in use.

If you rent your property, educate your tenants or visitors on securing trash appropriately.

If you see a trash problem in your neighborhood, please report it to the Clean Tahoe Program — 530-544-4210 or info@clean-tahoe.org.

Thank you for keeping our beautiful environment clean and litter-free!

Catherine Cecchi is the executive director of the Clean Tahoe Program. She can be reached at catherine@clean-tahoe.org.

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