A lot of orange appeared in Anchorage on Saturday.
It was almost impossible to drive more than a mile along the Seward Highway without seeing yet another crop of orange garbage bags, a hallmark of Citywide Cleanup volunteers.
The volunteers — sporting trash grabbers, latex gloves and, of course, the orange bags — have come out in force this week to clean up the broken bottles, food containers, candy wrappers, old receipts and discarded clothing newly exposed by the melting snow.
Annual cleanup week, a 51-year community service event sponsored by the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, collects millions of pounds of trash from Anchorage roadways, neighborhoods and creeks every year, according to the chamber.
Some participants make it into a true social gathering, capping off their cleaning efforts with picnics and barbecues.
For Anchorage’s rock climbing community, it was the perfect opportunity to beautify some favorite climbing spots.
Volunteers from the Climbers Alliance of Southcentral Alaska, a climbers’ advocacy organization, set out on Saturday to clear trash from seven popular crags along Turnagain Arm, fanning out from a climbing spot near Beluga Point called Sunshine Ridge.
In their last Seward Highway cleanup, volunteers filled 30 trash bags with litter, not to mention disposing of several larger items like car bumpers and coolers, vice president Lang Van Dommelen said.
“Most of that comes from cars driving along the highway, but being stewards of our climbing areas and making sure they look nice and taking care of it even if it’s not our trash, that’s pretty important," Van Dommelen said.
Meanwhile, other groups across the municipality were undertaking their own cleanups — one combing Potter Marsh, another lugging full trash bags down a debris-strewn roadway between Dowling and Tudor roads.
At the Mountain View Community Center, a line more than 30 people deep had already formed in front of the registration table by the time the neighborhood’s community council officially kicked off its own cleanup event.
About a hundred of the people who showed up were students from the Non-Commissioned Officers Academy at nearby Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson on their off day, Air Force Technical Sgt. Christopher Keller said.
“We just came out here to support our community and just try to help out and do our best to clean up and get this community back up and running,” Keller said. “We support them because they support us.”
At Kasuun Elementary School in East Anchorage, teacher Julie Graham pointed out a handful of children scattered across the parking lot to collect scraps of litter.
“Kasuun comes from an Athabascan word meaning ‘beautiful place,’ and we want to make this a beautiful place," Graham said.
Graham, who was handing out trash bags, said most of the 30 or so people who had stopped by had driven the bags back to their own neighborhoods. These kids, though, had walked from nearby neighborhoods on their own asking to help — and asking for some of the free hot dogs the school was handing out to volunteers, she said. \
“They wanted to get more hot dogs so I said to them, ‘Well, bring me more garbage,’ " Graham said.
The Citywide Cleanup will last through the rest of next week until Saturday, May 4. Here’s a guide for those wanting to get involved.
Where can I get a bag?
Every Fred Meyer location in Anchorage and Eagle River has the city-designated orange bags available at the customer service desk. Both Anchorage Red Robin locations also have bags available, along with the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce headquarters on West Sixth Avenue, the Pizza Studio on Muldoon Road, the Anchorage Daily News office on West 31st Avenue, and Ohana Media Group on Gambell Street.
For a full list of location addresses, see the Chamber of Commerce website.
What if I need more than two bags?
Volunteers wanting to collect trash as a group can register their team to reserve a bundle of bags.
Where do I drop off the trash I collect?
The Anchorage Regional Landfill in Eagle River will accept orange trash bags for free throughout the week. All Anchorage residents, not just those collecting litter, can also drop their trash off at the landfill for free next Saturday, May 4. The landfill’s two “free dump days” signal the beginning and end of cleanup week.
What should I do if I find a needle?
The best way to get rid of a syringe, according to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, is to pick it up carefully with gloved hands and place it in a thick, plastic container. That could be a medical sharps container — available at some pharmacies — or something like a laundry detergent jug, a shampoo bottle or cat litter jug.
Just make sure the plastic is thick enough that the needle won’t poke through. That means no water bottles or milk jugs.
What other cleanup events are coming up?
The Anchorage Waterways Council will organize a citywide creek cleanup May 9-13, five days after the official Citywide Cleanup ends. Volunteers can come out individually or in groups.