Schools help Fort Worth tackle a litter problem

Fort Worth schools are joining the city’s Litter-Free School Zone initiative by forming Green Teams to help clear litter from around parks, community centers and local businesses.

Twenty-seven schools have joined or shown interest in the initiative that started Nov. 15, said Brandon Bennett, the city’s director of environmental health and code compliance.

Plan could prevent pollution, deter crime

The initiative coincides with Fort Worth’s 20-year comprehensive solid waste management plan and developing environmental plan.

Fort Worth seeks to prevent water pollution by clearing trash from the streets, said Tobi Jackson, president of the FWISD board of education.

“Water is the only thing that stops litter,” Jackson said. “We need to stop it before it gets to the water ways.”

The Texas Department of Transportation reports that 435 million pieces of visible litter accumulate on Texas roads each year.

Beyond the environmental harms, more litter may also correlate with more crime, Bennett said.

Bennett displayed two maps when he presented this idea to the FWISD board of education members in November.

The first was a heat map that showed where in Fort Worth the most litter was concentrated.

A second map, acquired from the Fort Worth Police Department, outlined areas that generate the most crime reports.

Bennett compared the two maps, noting a correlation between crime and grime.

Green Teams partner with KFWB to clean the streets

He said Green Teams working alongside the Keep Fort Worth Beautiful program can create safer school communities by clearing litter from around parks, community centers and local businesses.

FWISD schools have created Green Teams to help lead the initiative of picking up litter. (Photo courtesy of FWISD)

Using government resources and the help of public health and county officials, KFWB will demolish old, rickety homes and schedule consistent street tree trimmings so students walking to and from school will no longer have to step into the street, Bennett said.

KFWB supplies the schools’ Green Teams with six-gallon recycling bins and adds them to a quarterly newsletter when they submit a Green Team application. The deadline to complete the application is April 30.

Some neighborhoods have programs already implemented that are helping with the initiative.

In the Como neighborhood, students are encouraged to pick up 10 pieces of trash every Tuesday as part of a “10 on Tuesday” program, said Christene Moss, trustee of the FWISD board of education.

Citywide, students who participate the most in their Green Teams will receive a reward, Bennett said.

Fort Worth hopes to attract high school students to the program with internship opportunities in the environmental field, Bennett said. Students would test air quality with air handlers, work in water and steam groups and gain experience in labs, he said.

Green Teams will collaborate with other Green Teams throughout the district, sharing ideas, taking part in eco-contests and learning about volunteer and training opportunities, he said.

“This is an opportunity to take the limited resources we have and focus them around the schools for a much safer work environment,” Bennett said.