From "Ewww" to "Oooo!": My Adventures with Allegheny CleanWays by Sam Bigley

When you think of a trash cleanup, what generally comes to mind? A day of picking up an endless stream of bottles and cans, plastic bags, and scraps of paper off the side of the road? You've probably been made to wear one of those embarrassing orange safety vests, as well. While I cede that I've picked up countless bottles and cans, the cleanups that I've participated in with Allegheny CleanWays go so much further than the side of the road.  

Allegheny CleanWays specializes in the elimination of illegal dumpsites and areas with particularly high concentrations of litter in and around Pittsburgh. They take volunteers into the woods and out on the riverbanks in order to reach those often hard to get to dumpsites. Once you're out there, it's not just bottles you're picking up. You name a random human possession, and chances are I've pried it out of the woods at some point or other. We've found bowling balls and sandboxes, so many old car parts that I could have pieced together my own station wagon by now, televisions, and broken old records. Removing some of this stuff is very hard, rewarding work. There is no better feeling than successfully wrestling a mud filled tire 100 yards to the collection site. (Short of downing a free slice of pizza after a strenuous cleanup, perhaps.)  

Beyond all the bottles and cans, tires, mud, and free pizza, there's a feeling of satisfaction and pride that goes with participating in a cleanup. You get the feeling that you and your fellow volunteers have really done something. There's a heaping mound of trash in front of you, and a much cleaner green space behind you. And the best part is it was fun. You got to play around in the woods for a few hours, and call it 'volunteering'. To me, there's no better way to spend a Saturday afternoon.