Trashy problem repelling tourists along National Mall

Plastic bottles and other refuse fill a trash bin in front of the Washington Monument, in view of the White House (WTOP/Dennis Foley)
- Trash spills on the ground around overfilled trash cans near the Washington Monument (WTOP/Dennis Foley)
Plastic bottles overflow recycling bins near the Washington Monument (WTOP/Dennis Foley)
Recycling and trash bins sit overloaded with plastic bottles near the Lincoln Memorial (WTOP/Dennis Foley)
Trash bags and other refuse sit beside a filled trash can by the WWII Memorial (WTOP/Dennis Foley)
Garbage spills out of overfilled trash cans near the Washington Monument (WTOP/Dennis Foley)

WASHINGTON — There’s a bit of a trashy problem on the National Mall: Lots of trash seems to build up in and around cans Sunday mornings throughout the park, especially near big monuments like the Lincoln Memorial.

“It’s a little disappointing,” said Mike McDonald. “This is America’s Mall right here, and it should be kept up a little nicer.”

McDonald lives in Northwest Washington and was getting an early Sunday morning start on the mall. He and M.J. Levy couldn’t help but notice the wrappers and bottles overflowing the trash bins near the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool.

“That’s the first thing that you see and notice,” McDonald noted. “The sun comes up and it’s just trash.”

“It’s quite nice seeing the sunrise glisten off the plastic bottles,” Levy quickly added.

“Busy seasons like this, we do run split schedules,” National Park Service spokesman Mike Litterst says.

“We’ve got guys that come in early. We’ve got a second crew that comes in midday so that there is double coverage during the heaviest time and then we have coverage on into the evening.”

Litterst did not immediately know what is causing the weekend garbage problem.

Even foreign visitors have taken notice.

“It’s terrible,” Frank Sicking says.

Sicking was making his third trip to Washington, D.C., from Düsseldorf, but this was the first time he had been on the Mall early in the morning with very few people out and about.

“There’s lots of trash all over lying here. Nothing that should be in this nice place,” Sicking says.

Standing on the steps in front of the Lincoln Memorial, you could see trash bins overflowing with plastic bottles, pretzel wrappers, even plastic salad bowls. Many of these cans even had extra bags of garbage sitting beside them.

It didn’t take long to notice some rustling in one of those cans. Less than a minute later, a rat popped out and scurried off with what looked to be its breakfast.

“I don’t know what type of message this sends to people coming in here,” McDonald lamented. “For a city that’s supposed to be up and coming, it kind of makes you wonder what that image is.”

“What I expect was to see all of these beautiful buildings and all of the parks here and that they are all in good condition,” Sicking said, but that’s not what he saw.

“It’s all plastics. So in Germany, that’s absolutely not typical. People throw away all of these things around the baskets and the birds pick it up; it looks like a trash field.”

But why has trash taken over the iconic National Mall?

“I don’t know if it’s not enough trash cans or anything at those key infrastructure points they might want to look into,” McDonald guessed. “But definitely not ideal.”

Levy said there is no excuse.

“My momma used to always say, being from the South in Georgia, if you can’t respect yourself that you can’t keep up your house, how are people going to respect you when they come to visit you?”

Watch the video: The trash attracts rats, squirrels and birds.

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