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Milwaukee kicks off street sweeping as melting snow reveals lingering trash

Posted at 5:26 PM, Mar 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-08 18:39:43-05

MILWAUKEE — It was bound to happen: The snow is finally melting. But with that snow, the trash beneath is revealed.

“You can’t tell if it’s garbage or not. So when the snow starts melting, then you start to see the garbage around the property,” said Jassa Singh, a grocery store owner.

milwaukee trash

Singh runs Galst Food Market on 16th and North Avenue with his father. He said he often deals with blowing trash coming into his store's parking lot. He cleans it three times per day.

“We do get a lot of trash here. Mostly it’s in the community. Sometimes, the wind just blows it over,” Singh said.

milwaukee trash

Leftover trash isn’t just exclusive to the city. TMJ4 cameras caught a small cleanup at Grant Park Beach in South Milwaukee.

On Monday, the Milwaukee Department of Public Works began its street sweeping work. It's one of several ways they’re hoping to clear any trash left behind from winter.

At its peak, DPW's street sweeping efforts could see upwards of 27 sweepers cleaning roadways round-the-clock for six weeks. It's called the "heavy sweep," starting March 21.

milwaukee trash

“It’s gotta go somewhere, so if it’s not picked up, it’s going to end up in the lake or somewhere we don’t want it,” said Rick Meyers, Sanitation Services Manager with DPW.

Some of DPW’s cleanup efforts include:

Drop Off Center

  • Starting April 11, expands to being open Sundays

Weekend Boxes

  • Reservations accepted March 1
  • Clean ups from April 17-July 31

Heavy Sweep

  • Tentative start March 21
  • 6 weeks of up to 27 night & day sweepers

Post Heavy Sweep

  • Up to 18 night & day sweepers

City Boulevards

  • Forestry staff litter pick up begins late March
  • Forestry mowing
  • Public Right of Ways Adjacent to Highways
  • Litter pick-up by Operations staff begins late March
  • Litter pick-up in advance of contract mowers – 3 times/year

A report from the Rochester Institute of Technology said half of the plastic entering the Great Lakes yearly, about 5,000 metric tons, goes into Lake Michigan alone.

“There’s a lot of pollutant loading, what we call it where the stormwater carries pollutants into our stormwater drains and eventually into our rivers and lakes,” said Jennifer Bolger-Breceda, Executive Director of the nonprofit, Milwaukee Riverkeeper.

A Chicago Times report noted plastic debris, like much of what's left underneath a snowfall, makes up for 80 percent of all pollutants along Lake Michigan beaches.

“Plastic is a huge issue and we’re finding plastic in birds and fish and all over,” Bolger-Breceda said.

Milwaukee Riverkeeper is seeking volunteers for its Spring Cleanup on April 24. You can register HERE.

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