Fifth grade students from Lake Superior Elementary School scooped up a little bit of everything Friday, Sept. 3, at the Arrowhead Boat Landing in Superior.

The trash they picked up as part of the Twin Ports Coastal Cleanup Event included food wrappers, cigarette butts, a bike mirror, a pair of underwear and a watermelon.

What did the students think of the cleanup?

Emma Bucheger, 10, enjoyed seeing the “weird” objects they unearthed.

“It’s fun,” Bucheger said. “It’s exciting and intriguing.”

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And it serves a good purpose.

“Just to keep the Earth clean,” said fifth-grader Carol Ann Cross.

"So things can be clean and animals don’t eat the stuff and get hurt," said her classmate Ana Johnson, 10.

Fifth-grade students from Sue Correll’s class at Lake Superior Elementary interact with Duluth Mayor Emily Larson, left, and Superior Mayor Jim Paine before picking up garbage near the Arrowhead Fishing Pier for the Twin Ports Coastal Cleanup project on Friday, Sept. 3, 2021, in Superior.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
Fifth-grade students from Sue Correll’s class at Lake Superior Elementary interact with Duluth Mayor Emily Larson, left, and Superior Mayor Jim Paine before picking up garbage near the Arrowhead Fishing Pier for the Twin Ports Coastal Cleanup project on Friday, Sept. 3, 2021, in Superior. Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Superior Mayor Jim Paine told the students that keeping the watershed clean is a job for everybody, not just government officials, not just adults. Growing up in Superior, he said, the water by the pier wasn’t clean. He wasn’t able to swim in it or eat the fish he caught out of it.

“It’s cleaner now because a lot of fifth-graders before you and people over the last 10-20 years have worked to clean it up, but it could still be cleaner,” Paine said.

Taking care of the planet is an everyday job, Duluth Mayor Emily Larson said.

“Today is picking up garbage,” she told the students, and tomorrow it could be remembering to bring a bag to the store, composting food waste or speaking up if you see a friend throw a wrapper on the ground.

Sydney Noble, a fifth-grader in Sue Correll’s class at Lake Superior Elementary, inspects garbage she found along the edge of the St. Louis River near the Arrowhead Fishing Pier on Friday, Sept. 3, 2021, in Superior, as part of the Twin Ports Coastal Cleanup project. 
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
Sydney Noble, a fifth-grader in Sue Correll’s class at Lake Superior Elementary, inspects garbage she found along the edge of the St. Louis River near the Arrowhead Fishing Pier on Friday, Sept. 3, 2021, in Superior, as part of the Twin Ports Coastal Cleanup project. Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Friday’s activity kicked off a month-long focus on trash in the Twin Ports. The joint cleanup is part of a larger, worldwide effort called the International Coastal Cleanup.

Since the cleanup began in 1986, nearly 16 million volunteers have collected more than 340 million pounds of trash around the planet. Last year, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, 15 groups in Superior collected nearly 400 pounds of trash during the city’s coastal cleanup.

Individuals, community groups and families can schedule their own cleanup events online through the Superior Annual September Coastal Cleanup page or through the Duluth Parks and Recreation Clean and Green project website. Both cities can provide groups with equipment, from vests and grabbers to buckets. Or sign up with Keep Duluth Clean to take part in a community-wide cleanup Sept. 25. The cleanup doesn’t have to take place along the coast to impact local waterways.

“It’s all connected,” said Megan Hogfeldt, water resource specialist for the city of Superior..

Garbage that collects in the city’s streets and yards can be swept into rivers, streams and lakes during heavy rainfall and snow melt.

“Essentially, our yards are the shoreline of Lake Superior," Hogfeldt said.

The city also offers longer-term cleanup options. Dozens of people, organizations, groups and businesses have stepped up to adopt city parks, trail sections, ball parks and boat landings through the Superior Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department.

Adopters sign up to care for these public spaces cleaning litter, planting flowers, repainting benches and more for at least two years. People can also adopt their neighborhood storm drains through the city's Environmental Services Division of Public Works. The work involves picking up trash around the storm drain and along the street and sidewalk on a regular basis, particularly before it rains.

“We’re all working together to keep Superior clean,” Hogfeldt said.