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'Making Carolina a greener, cleaner and safer place': Trash Force cleans up campus

Members of Trash Force pose for a group photo.

Last fall, UNC seniors Andrew Mattson and Stephen Chesser were struggling to find low commitment volunteer opportunities for extra credit in a class they shared. 

With extra credit points on the line, Mattson and Chesser decided to form their own club instead — UNC Trash Force. 

Mattson and Chesser are now co-presidents of the organization, which meets to collect trash on campus. Since the club began, Mattson said they have collected over 400 pounds of trash.

Initially, roughly 40 people, almost all from their class, joined and volunteered in trash pickups. After picking up about 60 pounds of trash in the first four months, Chesser said they decided to keep the club going. 

Mattson said they realized it was a great way to bring people together in the community, socialize and have fun. 

“You get to hang out with your friends and have a good time. But you also get to do something good for the community and the environment,” Meredith Pritchard, the club’s social media and marketing leader, said

Trash Force hosts monthly low-stakes trash pickups all around campus. According to Mattson, they specifically try to target the areas near sporting events because of the large amounts of trash often left behind after these events. He said the group hopes to branch out into the surrounding communities in the future. 

Chesser said members have completed more than 400 volunteer hours since the club started. These hours go toward not only making the campus more beautiful, but also cultivating a space where both the environment and community members can thrive. 

“A lot of the trash we found is stuff that would be really toxic to keep in the environment, and by removing that, we are actively making Carolina a greener, cleaner and safer place for people to exist,” Chesser said

Though they started with just trash pick-ups, the club has expanded to hosting events centered around environmental education, outreach and sustainable activism. They work with organizations both on and off campus — they even did a trash pickup with the Carolina Girls, UNC’s dance team. 

“It's really great to educate the community because, without education, no one's gonna take steps to improve,” Pritchard said.

In October, Trash Force hosted an event with the North Carolina Conservation Network and Climate Action NC where they watchedForever Chemicals: North Carolina's Toxic Tap Water,” a documentary about the damages caused by toxic chemicals dumped into the Cape Fear River. 

“There were people there who had said, ‘Oh, we didn't even know this happened — and we were drinking the affected drinking water.’ So it was definitely a successful event,” Mattson said.

Mattson said he thinks Trash Force is building a community of people attracted to both sustainability and community service. Through the club, he said students often end up learning a lot more about the environment.

Chesser said one of the best parts of the club is just getting to hang out and do something good for the environment.

“I hope that it shows people how much trash is just constantly being littered on campus and inspires them to do something about it,” Chesser said.

@dailytarheel |

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