SMU’s Trashformers more than meets the eye

A group of students from Saint Mary's University are keeping communities clean by picking up trash

Saint Mary’s Trashformers are out to clean up litter and the image of students

Broken glass and cigarette butts are a common sight on the street outside Saint Mary's University on a Saturday morning. But a group of residence students are working to change this.

They call themselves the Trashformers. Every Saturday morning, they roam the streets near their university picking up litter along the campus streets.

One morning in September, 22 students dressed in neon-green shirts and blue bandanas donning the Trashformers logo - and armed with latex gloves, brooms, dust pans and garbage and recycling bags - set out to clean up the image of messy and noisy students.

"We do this to let our neighbours know that we are a part of (the community) and we care about it," says third-year commerce student Samantha Higgins.

Higgins is the neighbourhood committee assistant for Pride in Your Shared Community, a sustainability program that began in 2003 at Saint Mary's. The committee is made up of students and staff who work with those living near the campus, and works to reduce excessive noise, litter, vandalism and other problems that can come with living near a major post-secondary institution.

A Saint Mary's student created the one-of-a-kind project last year. As part of Pride in Your Shared Community, students see it a great way to help out and be more involved in the community. The committee asks residents to keep in contact with the school. They are encouraged to "Just Say Hi" to the students, a slogan that adorns the Trashformers shirts.

Higgins says dozens of people show up each Saturday morning, and the number has been growing since last year.

By picking up empty chip bags, cigarette butts and broken beer bottles, students have the chance to win prizes. Each time students volunteer, they enter to win mall gift certificates, pizza parties and the grand prize: the popular Play Station 3 video console with the Rock Band 2 game.

But volunteer Germiko Hill, a fourth-year accounting student, says he doesn't care about the prizes.

"I hope people are coming out here from the kindness of their heart, and not for any personal incentive. I know I'm not."

Heather Bluteau lives on Gorsebrook Avenue, one of the school's neighbouring streets. She says it's not always easy living next to a major university.

"It has its challenges, but we're trying to work together."

She understands that not all students are a problem and thinks the Trashformers is a great idea.

"It's really appreciated, because it is after a Friday night. And especially on the weekends there's a lot of glass, garbage and litter from fast food."

After two hours, the group has gathered two bags of trash and recyclables on Robie and Inglis Streets, Tower Road and Gorsebrook Avenue. The Trashformers will continue their mission every Saturday morning throughout the fall.


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