Residents discuss ways to combat litter problem in Marshall

MARSHALL – The answer is blowin’ in the wind. Well, the plastic bags and fast-food containers are blowing in the wind, and they often can be found nestled in the vacant lots around Pizza Ranch, Wal-Mart and Menards.

Melinda Kawalek, GreenCorps member for Marshall, and Tom Hoff from Southwest/West Central Service Cooperative coordinated a meeting Tuesday with Annette Bair of Southwest Regional Development Commission, moderating. Stakeholders – businesses, individuals and organizations who may influence or are influenced by the build-up of litter in that area – met to discuss the problem and come up with solutions.

Hoff said last April a group of about 40 to 50 volunteers picked up the trash surrounding Pizza Ranch. He said Marshall is a clean community, but this area is a “particularly visible area and has high traffic – and we had to start someplace.”

They got almost all of it – “240 pounds, not 100 percent, but that’s what we had time to do.”

Hoff said the clean-up day was “a windy day. We could have taken a photo an hour later and find accumulation already starting.”

Among the rubbish was 450 plastic bags, mainly from Wal-Mart and Hy-Vee, plus from stores not located in Marshall.

In Tuesday’s meeting, the stakeholders discussed the litter problem and where it’s all coming from.

Some said trash and recycling bins have to be securely fastened so the wind doesn’t blow the tops off.

Julie Lokken, a landowner from rural Balaton, said she sees trash in the ditches around Marshall.

“They clean out their cars before they come into Marshall,” she said. “We bale it up and sell it to cattle people, horse people.” They would prefer not to have plastic bags in with the grass, she said.

“I use reusable bags,” Lokken said. “It would be nice to see some of the stores up the incentives.”

Lonny Serreyn of County Fair Food Store said reusable bags get dirty and might be hard to fill.

“They sometimes aren’t clean and they can be cumbersome,” he said.

Paul Henriksen, Lyon County environmental administrator, said he lives west of Russell and he sees a lot of beer cans in the ditches.

“And a lot of plastic pop bottles,” Lokken said. “And to-go fast food containers. They finish their food and throw the container out the window.”

David Naughton of Shopko said he sees “customers go out and throw the bag up in the air.”

The stakeholders were asked for ideas to try to combat the litter problem around Marshall.

One idea was to adopt a neighborhood where individuals would clean up around their houses. Businesses would clean up more around their lots. Paul Redding of Pizza Ranch said he sends clean-up crews out to the Pizza Ranch parking lot “two or three times a week, but it gets blown back in.”

An idea that had merit was possibly paying groups to clean.

“You’re donating money to some of them already – Boy Scouts, athletes – why not have them pick up trash for it?” said Hoff.

Another resource is Advance Opportunities, which provides employment opportunities and vocational training to individuals with developmental, physical and other disabilities.

“We have 96 consumers at our place,” said Pat Driessen of Advance. “They have to get paid, but it would still be more cost effective to pay them.”

Another suggestion was to have a city-wide clean-up twice a year – in the spring and fall.

Marshall is one of 55 to 60 cities in the state of Minnesota in the GreenStep program, which works to protect the environment and save cities money through energy efficiency.