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Austin, Garfield Park, North Lawndale

Trash Cans Installed On West Side To Reduce Littering: ‘It’s Our Civic Duty To Keep Our Neighborhoods Clean’

West Side residents have been asking the city for public trash cans for years: "Why don't we have garbage cans? Everybody else does."

New trash cans are being installed across the 24th Ward.
Pascal Sabino/Block Club Chicago
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NORTH LAWNDALE — A basic city service taken for granted in other neighborhoods is finally coming to Lawndale: garbage cans.

For decades, Lawndale residents have called on the city for a solution to the excess litter that blows through the streets. Now, at least 70 trash cans are being set up on sidewalks along commercial corridors like Ogden Avenue and Roosevelt Road and residential areas throughout the 24th Ward, making it easier for West Side residents to keep their neighborhoods clean.

The trash cans are painted blue with red stars, evoking the Chicago flag. The name of the neighborhood is also emblazoned on trash cans to give residents a feeling of “pride in Chicago, pride in their community,” Ald. Michael Scott (24th) said.

Scott hopes the trash bins will reduce littering and reinforce beautification efforts led by community members.

“If I can get one person to use them, that’s one less thing the community has to look at, one less thing that the city will have to clean,” Scott said.

Cleaning up North Lawndale and surrounding neighborhoods has long been a priority for Scott. As part of his 2015 run for alderman, he pledged to bring more trash cans to the 24th Ward to answer the calls of residents demanding the public infrastructure they need for a safe and clean community.

Scott worked with the city’s Department of Streets and Sanitation to get the trash bins installed using some of the $1.3 million allocated to each alderman for local infrastructure improvements under the aldermanic menu program.

Neighborhood groups dedicated to greening the West Side were some of the biggest advocates for more trash cans. North Lawndale historically hasn’t gotten a fair shake when it comes to simple public goods and services such as trash cans and snow removal, said Annamaria Leon, a member of the North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council’s GROWWS Committee.

“Why don’t we have garbage cans? Everybody else does,” Leon said. “It’s our civic duty to keep our neighborhoods clean. But on the other hand, where are we going to put all this stuff?”

Commercial areas in Lawndale used to have trash cans, Scott said. But years ago, the wire trash cans started getting stolen and sold for scrap metal.

Trash cans may seem like a simple service for a neighborhood, Leon said. But the abundance of litter in the area is also tied into the cycle of neglect and despair that leaves many people feeling like their neighborhoods are not cared for.

“We have too much garbage, but we don’t have garbage cans,” Leon said. “We don’t have garbage cans because we don’t have enough people and tax money. But when people see how littered our neighborhood is, they don’t want to come here.”

Litter has been such a longstanding issue residents included trash bins as a goal in the comprehensive quality-of-life plan organized by the North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council as a blueprint for revitalizing the neighborhood.

The look and feel of the physical environment of the neighborhood sets the tone for how welcoming the area is for families, businesses and visitors, Scott said.

“It will be more inviting for people to come and shop, and to walk around and feel safe,” Scott said. “This is a beautiful, historic community that has a lot of rich heritage and community involvement. I want people to feel proud that they live here.”

Pascal Sabino is a Report for America corps member covering Austin, North Lawndale and Garfield Park for Block Club Chicago.

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