This past Saturday, Oct. 15, small groups of student volunteers equipped themselves with gloves, trash pickers and garbage bags and spent the morning walking around campus, picking up litter and enjoying the fall weather. They were there for a collaboration between the Rowan Environmental Action League (REAL) and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) for their biannual Campus Cleanup.
The event aimed to beautify Rowan’s campus and protect the environment. The cleanup also serves as a way to socialize, get outdoors and raise awareness amongst students about disposing of trash correctly.
“We think it’s important for our campus to look beautiful and to look clean and to not have pollutants in the environment. It also kind of brings attention, especially for all those of us who are cleaning up,” said Aarushi Gupta, President of REAL.
Protecting wildlife is also a large concern. Gupta said that pollution frequently ends up in the stream that runs through campus, which endangers the turtles and the fish that live there. Other animals on campus mistake cigarette butts and other small pieces of garbage for food, putting them at risk for illness and injury as well.
The group typically ends their two-hour cleanup with about three to four large trash bags filled. But according to Gupta, how much trash is collected heavily depends on how many people come out to volunteer.
“One of the cleanups we did last year with SGA, that was a big event. We ended up with at least 20 trash bags,” Gupta said.
While the amount of trash found can vary, so can the type of trash being picked up. Gupta listed off a variety of unusual items including articles of clothing, unopened food and drink containers, small pieces of furniture and even bikes.
“We pick up a lot of stuff. In the past we’ve found bikes in the lake, we’ve pulled out some weird stuff. We found a full 6 pack of beer hidden in the bushes somewhere. Weird articles of clothing you wouldn’t expect to see. The strangest thing we’ve found — probably a thong,” Gupta said.
REAL’s official Instagram has posted several of its interesting finds. One picture from a 2020 cleanup includes an office chair and a fire extinguisher. Another from 2019 features a large pile of cigarettes.
This past Saturday was no different — one group of volunteers from ASCE found a pink children’s bike lying abandoned in a ditch. Tyler Spires, a member of the group who found and retrieved the bike, said it was in a ditch near the traffic circle at the end of Rowan Boulevard and the Holly Retention Pond.
“It’s pretty beat up so we’re guessing someone just tossed it down there since it stopped working or something. They should’ve just taken it to a dump instead of throwing it down in the ditch,” said Spires.
Improper disposal of garbage, especially large unwanted items, can be dangerous and harmful to people, wildlife and the environment as a whole.
“It’s important to keep the environment clean and the campus clean to look nice. I think the environment is the most important part of what we’re doing here,” said Spires.
Campus Cleanup allows students to take action and play a role in keeping campus clean, safe and beautiful — no matter the findings.
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