For more than 20 years, the River des Peres Trash Bash has given residents a chance to clean up the grounds and waterways throughout the River des Peres Watershed in Missouri’s St. Louis County. The event was led by Open Space STL, a St. Louis-based nonprofit that works independently and collaboratively to conserve and sustain land, water and other natural resources for the health and well-being of residents.

Open Space STL coordinated with the River des Peres Watershed Coalition and other local partners to identify cleanup sites and engage community volunteers for the Trash Bash held Oct. 28, 2023. Cleanups took place in University City, St. Louis, Brentwood, Crestwood and surrounding areas. Budget Dumpster supplied a 20 yard container for the 2023 event at the Brentwood site. Volunteers filled it with nearly 2 tons of debris — with some of the weirdest items earning them prizes.

Open Space STL Volunteers Cleaning Trail
Image courtesy of Open Space STL

River des Peres Trash Bash Draws 500-Plus Volunteers

Some 175 day-of volunteers and nearly 400 students from weekday school groups pitched in to pick up trash at the various cleanup sites. Trash picked up at public parks and open green spaces makes the areas cleaner for visitors to enjoy, says Zoe Geist, chairperson of the River des Peres Watershed Coalition.

Removing trash near streams and from waterways means less pollution that could impact aquatic life as well as residents, she adds.

“Healthy watersheds free of pollution help to improve water quality for everyone living in the watershed.”

Zoe Geist, Chairperson | River des Peres Watershed Coalition

During the event, volunteers picked up everything from roadside litter and single-use plastic containers to old car parts, cans, bottles and debris brought in from flooding. A Unique Trash Contest earned volunteers prizes for some of the more interesting items. A plastic wagon, weed trimmer and a large plush whale earned those volunteers a gift basket from Great Rivers Greenway, gift cards from Alpine shop and tickets to the Missouri Botanical Garden.

Karen Luning With Open Space STL Volunteers
Image courtesy of Open Space STL

Keeping St. Louis Waterways Clear

Brentwood is home to Deer Creek and Black Creek, which are tributaries of the River des Peres. By keeping tributaries clean, the organizations help stop trash from flowing into the rivers and, ultimately, into larger bodies of water.

“For example, picking up a Styrofoam cup at Brentwood Park stops the cup from flowing from Deer Creek, to the River des Peres, to the Mississippi, to eventually the Gulf of Mexico.”

Hannah Gibson, Volunteer Program Manager | Open Space STL

Volunteers collected a total of more than 6 tons of trash this fall, including about 1,200 pounds of metal. With Budget Dumpster’s donated container on-site at the Brentwood Sports Complex, Open Space’s municipal waste hauling partners didn’t have to travel as far with dump trucks full of volunteer-collected trash, Gibson says.

“This allowed for a more efficient waste management plan and less mileage for the trucks,” she notes.

Hosting the River des Peres Trash Bash each year lets volunteers “keep chipping away at the trash that litters our watershed,” while giving them a chance to “get outside, get their hands dirty and give back to their community,” she says.

For Gibson, the event is the cherry on top of all the logistical work and planning that goes into it.

“Whether it’s seeing volunteers pull tires out of the river with a sweaty smile and sense of accomplishment, or hearing volunteers talk about how they will continue to pick up trash in their own neighborhood, the volunteer experience and long-lasting environmental impact is what it’s all about.”

Hannah Gibson, Volunteer Program Manager | Open Space STL
Blue Dumpster With Trash Collected From Trail
Image courtesy of Open Space STL

Inspired to Host Your Own Cleanup?

Interested in organizing a cleanup like the River des Peres Trash Bash in your own community? Follow our guide for leading a successful community cleanup, and be sure to check out some of our other successful dumpster donations for a few ideas.