Flint, MI — For a week at the end of each summer, Chad Schlosser ties up his best work shoes and heads outside at the crack of dawn to pick up trash with his neighbor.

They walk the streets of their Mott Park neighborhood for about an hour and a half, he said, filling trash bags with a variety of items, most of which he believes people throw out of their cars as they drive through the area.

“A lot of cans and bottles, fast food containers, to-go boxes . . . a lot of liquor bottles,” he said.

Schlosser, the president of the Mott Park Neighborhood Association, said he picks up trash at other times too, but this time of year it’s different. Because now, it’s a competition — one that his neighborhood group has won for the past three years.

“We’re undefeated and trying to keep it going,” he said. “Not that it’s really about winning, but it’s about trying to mobilize neighbors to take care of our community. But the competition helps to motivate some people.”

This year the competition, called “Step Up, Pick Up,” is asking neighborhood groups across the city to compete to see who can pick up the most bags of litter between Sept. 22 and Oct. 2.

The first place team will receive $1,000, the second place team will receive $500 and the third place team will receive $250 for their efforts.

Schlosser said the Mott Park Neighborhood Association has put its past winnings toward a variety of neighborhood events and projects like a bicycle garden, an Easter event and other holiday celebrations for the community.

Chad Schlosser of Flint picks up trash around his neighborhood in Mott Park on April 30, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)

The competition is hosted by Communities First, Inc. in partnership with Keep Genesee County Beautiful and the Neighborhood Engagement Hub.

“Last year, groups picked up more than 6,000 pounds of litter,” said Glenn Wilson, President and CEO of Communities First in a Sept. 14, 2023, press release. “We want to empower community members to make a difference in their community and support them as they create stronger neighborhoods.” 

Communities First, Inc. Planning and Advocacy Manager Joel Arnold said that even though many of the participating neighborhood groups pick up trash year-round, it’s nice to be able to support them.

“It’s always just a fun way to reward any neighborhood groups who are already doing this work and supporting neighborhoods across the city,” he said.

Registration for the Step Up, Pick Up competition is open for Flint-based neighborhood groups through Sept. 22.

Litter collection supplies, like waste bags or trash grabbers, can be requested from Keep Genesee County beautiful with one week’s notice by calling (810) 767-9696. Garden tools, lawnmowers and landscaping equipment can be checked out from the Neighborhood Engagement Hub’s Community Tool Shed by calling (810) 214-0186.

Arnold said participating neighborhood groups receive instructions for what information to send in for the competition, which includes images of them doing cleanups and a daily form outlining the number of bags of trash they collected, the number of volunteers who were involved and the number of hours they spent cleaning up.

He said the groups are required to use 20 to 30 gallon trash bags, not something smaller like a grocery bag, for the competition.

“At the very end, we can find out who spent the most time cleaning up, who picked up the most bags and actually [we] will often ask volunteer groups as well to report, like, the number of steps they’ve taken while doing cleanup work,” he said.

Schlosser said in previous years, the Mott Park neighborhood has filled up to 90 trash bags and collectively taken about 100,000 steps.

But even though he’s proud of those numbers, he reiterated that it’s not about the competition for him, it’s about helping improve his neighborhood.

“A lot of people get frustrated by litter and by people that litter, and this is an opportunity to channel that frustration into something positive,” Schlosser said.

Sophia is Flint Beat's City Hall reporter. She joins the team after previously reporting for the Livingston Daily and the Lansing State Journal, along with some freelance work with The New York Times....

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