The Washington Post

Talkin’ trash with the National Park Service


Trash piled up near the Iwo Jima Memorial on June 19. (Photo courtesy of a Loop Fan)

This effort was part of the Park Service’s “Trash Free Parks” initiative, which hopes to reduce the amount of garbage the government has to haul away. You could think of it as trying to empower the American people to do the right thing and not to rely on the federal government so much.

We were admittedly skeptical, thinking that folks were likely to just throw their trash on the ground if the cans were removed.

But Jon James, the superintendent of the G.W. Parkway, was more optimistic. “It’s a mindset shift,” he told us, adding that the program has been successful in other parks, including Catoctin Mountain Park.

A Loop Fan who lives near the Iwo Jima Memorial said trash and litter are often to be seen at the memorial since the cans were taken away. (He said the photo above was taken the morning after a Marine Band concert on the grounds, so there’s a bit more than usual, but it’s nonetheless a constant problem.)

We talked trash Thursday with a National Park Service spokeswoman for this region. She told us that older “well established. . .programs. . . have an 80-95% success rate.” So after a while park personnel only have to “deal with litter left behind by a small percentage,”she said.

Well, maybe a mindset is a hard thing to shift very quickly in this area.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.

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