Those of us who enjoy the beauty of Southwest Virginia, with its majestic mountains and flowing streams, should give a big “thank you” to Megan Dillon and a group she founded in Floyd called Environmental Scavengers.
Since starting the group in 2016 — first as its only member — Dillon has led highway cleanup efforts that have cleared “tens of thousands of pounds” of discarded trash and junk, including old tires, from about 31 miles of highway and some riverbeds, according to a recent story in the Floyd Press.
Dillon, according to the story, got the idea of spearheading cleanup efforts after studying sustainable development in college and recalling how disturbed she was as a child seeing the Little River “full of trash” when she went fishing there with her dad. She realized, she said, just “how incredibly dangerous and bad for the environment trash is.”
Having spent about half of her growing-up years in Patrick County, she now lives in Floyd full time and has dedicated herself to the mission of Environmental Scavengers: “cleaning up trash, applying our knowledge of issues facing the environment, educating citizens on environmental issues, and creating programs for environmental sustainability,” according to the nonprofit group’s website, environmentalscavengers.org.
She started by doing cleanup by herself on a single 4-mile stretch of road, the story notes, trying to clear it of the trash that people throw out. Volunteers began to join her efforts, and their cleanup work expanded to take in more areas that needed it.
The group works mostly during the late fall and winter months so the volunteers can avoid dangers along the sides of the rural roads, including snakes, ticks and poison ivy, which usually aren’t around during the colder months.
Dillon and her crew of volunteers have also worked with the groups On the Water and Renew the New in their river cleanup efforts, including an event that led to clearing more than 100 discarded tires from the Little River.
Environmental Scavengers also has “adopted” a section of highway through the Virginia Department of Transportation, making sure that area is consistently kept clean of trash and garbage. The department has even supplied the group with road signs, orange safety vests and trash bags.
This year, the story notes, “has been a maintenance year for the group,” which in November began revisiting areas it had cleaned up in the past to collect any new trash that had been tossed since their earlier efforts.
The group doesn’t limit itself to just collecting the trash — the members also take the time to search through the large orange bags of trash they have picked up to sort out any recyclable items, which are then taken to a recycling center.
Dillon is passionate about protecting wildlife, cleaning up the environment and recycling, but she’s not one to point the finger at anyone for failing to dispose of trash properly, she told the newspaper.
That’s because, she said, there are factors that may prevent people from recycling or disposing of trash properly, including a lack of access to places to dispose of trash and ignorance about recycling and proper disposal.
She also blames some of the problem on natural events such as floods that wash trash away from disposal sites and on animals tearing apart trash bags.
With those “excuses” in mind, Environmental Scavengers also has included educational efforts in its activities, including giving a presentation on the federal Clean Air and Clean Water acts to local students on Earth Day and administering a certification program for businesses that meet sustainability standards.
We applaud the efforts of Dillon and her Environmental Scavengers to help clear our beautiful landscape and rivers of trash, and we hope that more groups like hers will form throughout Southwest Virginia to help in these cleanup efforts.
But to be quite honest, we’re not as willing as Dillon to give a free pass to people who trash the environment.
They know it’s wrong and that they shouldn’t be doing it, pure and simple.