There’s a big question mark filled with trash in the playing fields in front of J.P. McCaskey High School.
On Saturday, Sept. 12, it will be replaced with seven other similarly oversized chicken wire and rebar letters, also filled with colorful, if unsightly, litter gathered by community groups from local streets and parks.
It is not an avant-garde art project. Rather, the letters, which will spell out “reTHINK,” are part of a new campaign to try to get city residents to consider the impact of litter on the environment and the community.
City officials estimate it costs $2.1 million annually to clean up litter and illegal dumps each year. Studies show 81 percent of littering acts are intentional.
The Litter Letter Project began in Louisiana in 2013, when designer and educator Rachael Hatley decided to do something about the litter that accumulated daily in front of her home.
Since then, the campaign has spread to other states. Lancaster is the third Pennsylvania community to adopt the concept.
The 6-foot-high letters were constructed by community groups. It will take about 130 bags of trash that the groups collected to fill the seven letters.
The letters will remain in place for three months “as a visual symbol of how our actions impact our neighborhoods,” said Tracy Beyl, public art manager for the city.
The word choice was selected by the community who voted at a First Friday event downtown.
Alex Serrano, of Litter Letter Project partner Tait Towers, fabricated the welded rebar letters. Various community groups wrapped the frames with chicken wire and gathered trash.
The presenting sponsor of the Litter Letter Project is the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority.
Other participating groups include the Boys & Girls Club of Lancaster, Lancaster Unity, Isaac’s Famous Grilled Sandwiches, Aikido Center of Lancaster, The Mix at Arbor Place, Franklin & Marshall College’s Putting It Together program, McCaskey High School and its Environmental Club, Lancaster County Conservancy, City of Lancaster, and Keep Lancaster County Beautiful.
“Let’s rethink what is trash,” Beyl said. “Let’s rethink what can be art. Let’s rethink how we can make art together. Let’s rethink how our city can create together. Let’s Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rethink.”