I would like to make what I feel is a modest proposal that will help make the streets a bit cleaner if not entirely clean. I walk the streets every day from when I go to the synagogue in the morning, often in the dark, until I am walking back home at night. I encounter far too much trash along the way, seemingly no matter what route I choose. There is, unfortunately, only so much that I am able to pick up and relocate in the proper receptacles. We can ask ourselves why the streets are so dirty but knowing the answer today won’t make them any cleaner tomorrow.

I therefore propose the following initiative, titled the Clean Streets Brigade. It is something that I conceived when walking home from synagogue one Sunday morning. As I walked home, I noticed the trash on the street and thought about how much of it could be picked up in the span of an hour given a generous sized trash bag and one of those folding shopping carts (often referred to as granny carts)? I imagined that I could single handedly clear at least a block or two of all its trash if given an hour.

After this, I thought of how nice it would be to have my son Chaim with me, with his own appropriately sized folding shopping cart, each of us picking up trash on the street. I imagined him using a claw grabber of of some sort — hygienic reasons, really. As we are walking along the street, picking up trash, I imagine that people see us and wonder what we are doing and why. That is where the sign comes in handy — hanging on the front of each of our shopping carts is a sign that reads “Clean Streets Brigade.” When people ask me what we are doing I can explain to them what I hope to accomplish and how they can help with their own folding shopping carts, trash bags, and signs.

It is quite true that one man, even one who is green every day, cannot single handedly get the streets entirely clean. Therefore I am posing this challenge to you, the reader. Get a folding shopping cart if you do not have one. Then take an hour out of every Sunday — or whatever day is more convenient for you — and spend it removing trash off the streets. Write “Clean Streets Brigade” on posterboard and hang it from the front of your shopping cart.

I hope to be able to post updates to this article in the future with photographs from all over the country — shoot me an e-mail with photographs of your own Clean Streets Brigade. Together we can get clean streets!


  1. That’s a great idea, Gordon. Our streets in Jersey City are remarkably clean. The street cleaners run twice a week and there are city workers who walk the streets picking up the trash.

    The most disgusting thing people toss on the sidewalk is a cigarette butt. They are tiny and hard to pick up and they’re filthy and seem to expand in number by the hour. I don’t know why so many people are unable to properly toss their butts — but they don’t belong on sidewalks or streets or apartment steps!

    1. I know and have known far too many smokers that do this — and how it irks me! A former coworker of mine always threw his butts exactly where he knew the weekly street cleaners would go, so he felt no remorse. I once knew a man who pinched out the small amount of excess tobacco on his lit cigarette before pocketing the butt for later trash deposit.

      There are plenty of city workers in New York as well — but the trash overwhelms them, it seems, and so there is the need for the Clean Streets Brigade!

      1. Yah! And once those butts get a little wet, they expand and burst and become impossible to pick up. We have so many butts thrown in the bushes of our apartment building, the Super doesn’t even bother to pick them up any longer. He just covers them with a layer of wood chips. We now have a 12-inch pile of wood chips all along the front of the building.

        I hope you get a great response to the Clean Streets Brigade! Keep us updated!

    2. In the Naval Service we twice had to go around and pick-up the butts from the sand in camp rake the sand and repeat the process until the rake revealed no more butts – needless to say; always having been a non-smoker that this was the most detesting thing I ever had to do in my military career.
      I now know someone who has a patent to use cigarettes ( papers removed ) as
      wall insulation. He seems to want to collect as many as he can get his hands on although I think he chews.
      I walk all the time in the woods and recycle all my trash. It was our biggest export
      to China $1.07 billion in 2007.
      I wouldn’t recommend putting refuse in recycle bins. Let me know when you get a bushel of Cigarette-butts and I will pass them on to my friend. Thanks

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