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"The PUTLRUS are coming! The PUTLRUS are coming!" That's the imagined complaint of accumulated trash when it's discovered defiling a Flagstaff landscape. Noticeably hanging out everywhere in its continued infringement into our surroundings, litter is the most persistent eyesore of our treasured scenery.

We're reasonably sure clutter isn't able to shout such warnings to the other intrusive dross about impending threats to its existence, but if you've ever chased a swarm of Styrofoam packing peanuts down the street, you might be persuaded they actually are sentient beings capable of such an alert.

So what is a PUTLRUS? Some kind of airborne vacuum cleaner that slurps up ugly dumps of trash or oodles and oodles of itty-bitty critters bent on re-purposing our discarded scree into a more acceptable form of existence?

The answer is neither. Pronounced "Putt-L-Russ" and meaning "Pick Up The Litter/Recycle Useful Stuff," PUTLRUS is the name of an energetic group of city residents committed to removing litter wherever it's found in Flagstaff.

And unlike the highly valued folks and organizations that keep clean specific areas of our city, sections of the urban trail or individual streets, PUTLRUS has been self-constituted to go where needed to remove offending trash.

But if we expect Flagstaff to be that rubbish-free city most of our citizens claim they want, more of us need to be directly involved with the retrieval and proper disposal of litter.

To paraphrase the enlightening words of the comic strip character Pogo the Possum after plodding through his trash-filled neighborhood with friend Porky Pine, "we've met the enemy and they are us!"

Unfortunately, not being an active part in the resolution of this shared problem is a contribution to its persistence. Just pointing the finger of blame elsewhere isn't helpful either. Picking up the discarded riffraff ourselves is our only reliable remedy.

Our friend Maggie Twomey, the volunteer and event coordinator for the Sustainability Department of our city government, highly praises the Adopt-An-Avenue and Adopt-the-FUTS programs for volunteering over 3,000 hours in the collection of nearly 1,200 bags of trash and recycling last year. There were also 27 community clean-up events, but while the results of this citizen collaboration with the city are very beneficial, the litter problem in Flagstaff persists.

When Maggie presented the planned Community Stewards Program to our City Council that included information about the impending anti-litter campaign, monthly clean-up events in targeted areas and the steward task force, the council was so impressed they allocated $30,000 of ongoing funding to be provided from the BBB sales tax collection.

The positive result of the additional money was immediate as dumpsters were rented for the current snowplay season. The estimated cost of the bins from December through March is $3,500 and they'll be emptied twice a week. The dumpsters are currently located at the Kendrick Park Watchable Wildlife parking area, on Snowbowl Road, the Peaksview site, Thorpe Park/Adult Center snowplay area and the Lone Tree/John Wesley Powell FUTS parking lot.

Call Maggie Twomey at 213-2044 or e-mail mtwomey@flagstaffaz.gov if you want to help.

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