Trash Pollution Solutions: A Community-Based Approach for Baltimore City

Trash on the sidewalk.
This project aims to tackle the issue of land-based litter in Baltimore. (Photo Credit: Trash Free Maryland)

Together with the City of Baltimore, the Maryland Port Administration, the NOAA Marine Debris Program, and a collection of nonprofit organizations in Baltimore, Trash Free Maryland is launching a multi-year social marketing campaign to reduce land-based litter in Baltimore City.

Type of Project: Marine Debris Prevention through Education and Outreach Grant

Region: Mid-Atlantic

Project Dates: September 2016 - June 2019

Who is involved?
Trash Free Maryland, with the support of a NOAA Marine Debris Program Marine Debris Prevention through Education and Outreach Grant, is working with the City of Baltimore, Baltimore Community Foundation, Chesapeake Bay Trust, the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore, the Port of Baltimore, the National Aquarium, the Environmental Protection Agency, and Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake to conduct a community-based social marketing campaign.

What is the project and why is it important?
Like many places, land-based litter is an issue in Baltimore City, so Trash Free Maryland is launching a multi-year social marketing campaign to reduce Baltimore’s land-based litter. The team is conducting formative research and piloting a small-scale campaign with selected community mentors to promote litter cleanup activities. After evaluating the results of the pilot campaign, the team will be retesting the messages for a broader audience and rolling out the litter reduction campaign across the city. The ultimate goal of the project is to reduce the amount of litter in Baltimore’s neighborhoods and waterways.

There have been many campaigns around the country that have targeted individuals who litter with inconsistent success, so this initial campaign is targeting individuals who dislike litter but do not actively pick it up or otherwise work to prevent it. By targeting people who do not litter but also do not otherwise act against it, this project works to empower people and increase community engagement, creating a positive message for Baltimore. The goal of the pilot is to identify which social marketing tools will effectively address barriers and motivators specific to littering behaviors, are appropriate for the community, and are efficient and effective to deploy across the city. Project partners are working with community organizers to conduct periodic checks throughout the pilot phase in order to identify challenges and successes along the way, and to maintain contact with key members of the audience segment. At the close of the project, selected members of the target audience will also be interviewed for their perceptions of the project’s success, and a visual survey of cleanliness will be conducted using techniques that the city currently uses.

Through the successful design and implementation of this campaign, this project aims to change the ethic around litter in Baltimore City, instilling pride in the community that will lead to cleaner neighborhoods and waterways, and stemming the tide of trash pollution that contaminates Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and the vital environmental resources of the Chesapeake Bay.