A new filter for trash: Glendale resident spotlights discarded trash issue via Instagram

Picture after picture of discarded shopping carts, couches, broken TVs, even a dishwasher — all altered by colored filters — show up on the Instagram stream for a fake Glendale Visitor’s Bureau.

The creator of the account, @visitglendale, said his aim is to highlight the bulky trash that dots his neighborhood in an entertaining way.

“With my sense of humor, I thought it would be funny,” said Tom Smith, a software developer who started the account in April after seeing the trash on his daily walk to work.

Smith’s goal is two-fold: he wants city officials to pay closer attention to the problem, but he also wants to deter people from dumping in the first place.

“I don’t go looking for it, it kind of finds me. The distressing part is, I’ll see the same item for 10 days,” the 30-year-old said. “I just want to draw attention to it.”

He’s not the only one.

Nearly every week, a Glendale resident named Margaret Hammond speaks during the public comment section of City Council meetings encouraging people to call the city’s bulky-trash-pickup service before they toss stuff on the curb.

Smith’s Instagram account takes Hammond’s cause to a new media frontier.

Hammond, who is 85, said she isn’t familiar with Instagram, but she was happy to hear that another resident was just as concerned as she was about dumped items.

“What he’s doing is absolutely terrific,” Hammond said. “That’s what we want — to encourage people to clean up their neighborhoods.”

Glendale’s bulky-item-pickup service collected about 31,000 items last fiscal year, down from nearly 34,000 the previous two years, said Public Works Director Steve Zurn. Items include furniture, appliances and electronic goods.

The service doesn’t patrol the streets looking for items and trash collectors don’t usually pick up the items during their rounds. Rather, people are supposed to call (818) 548-3916 to schedule a bulky-item pickup. All public works employees have also been instructed to report bulky items, Zurn said.

“Anybody who sees something, we’re asking them to call that in,” he said.

In addition to reporting by phone, people can also log a complaint through the MyGlendale app, a free smartphone program that notifies city officials when users take pictures of issues.

Smith’s Instagram pictures are a stark contrast to those of the official city of Glendale account, @myglendale, which highlights positive images of the city, such as Glendale’s Tournament of Roses Parade float, attendees at government meetings and the Alex Theatre.

Smith has tagged the city Instagram account in all of his pictures of trash, but he has yet to get a response. He doesn’t take the pictures to make Glendale look bad, he said, but rather it’s his way of spotlighting an issue so that it gets better.

“I would rather not post pictures of that junk ultimately,” Smith said. “Glendale is cool. Why is everyone messing it up?”


Follow Brittany Levine on Google+ and on Twitter: @brittanylevine.


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