SOUTH PORTLAND — Scores of people toting garbage and recycling bags fanned out across South Portland on Saturday to extract a year’s worth of trash from the landscape as part of South Portland Land Trust’s Earth Day Cleanup.

The annual event is one of the region’s largest and oldest delittering efforts centered on Earth Day, an international celebration of environmental protection marking its 48th anniversary on Sunday. Other Earth Day celebrations were scheduled across the state throughout the weekend and beyond.

“We’ve been doing this for 30 years,” said Tom Blake, a cleanup coordinator.

Last year about 150 people showed up in the rain for the cleanup. The event saw a peak 302 volunteers turn out eight years ago to collect nearly one ton of litter and 45 bags of recyclables, said Richard Rottkov, a past president of the land trust and a cleanup coordinator. Rottkov said approximately 175 volunteers participated this year. The exact number of trash bags will be determined Monday when the city does its collection, but Rottkov estimated it was about 50.

The event draws volunteers from both South Portland and surrounding communities.

Seasoned volunteers said they find all sorts of strange trash. City public works crews haul away the litter at the end of the day. Some participants have been taking part in the trash pickup for years, said Rottkov.

The event is popular with families because it is an easy way to show children how hands-on volunteering can make a real difference, Rottkov said.

“Parents want to teach their children about good stewardship,” he said.

The land trust set up a staging area at Mill Creek Park, where volunteers were assigned one of 40 cleanup sites across the city. They were given instructions, sets of rubber gloves and white trash bags for recyclables, black bags for trash, and green bags for cans and bottles, with proceeds from the bottle deposits going back to the land trust. There were refreshments and prizes donated by South Portland merchants.

Justin Stafinski of South Portland and Angela Athearn of Portland stopped by to gather cleanup equipment for a group of about 10 members of the Eastpoint Christian Church. His group planned to collect trash along the Clarks Pond Trail near the church. Stafinski predicted the cleanup would take about three hours.

“Last year we found needles,” said Stafinski, referring to hypodermic syringes.

Olivia Devine, 8, a South Portland third-grader, was headed out to the Greenbelt Walkway with her Brownie Troop 593. She said she had previous experience picking up trash at Fort Williams in Cape Elizabeth, where she found many cigarette butts and plastic bags.

“It didn’t surprise me, ” Olivia said.

Julie Lefebvre and her Girl Scout Troop 1533 joined forces with Boy Scout Troop 37. Lefebvre, a sixth-grade math and science teacher at Mahoney Middle School, said last year her troop worked a quarter-mile section along Broadway between Dunkin’ Donuts and Easy Day bowling lanes, which they hoped to do again on Saturday.

“We found eight shopping carts which we hauled out for public works,” said Lefebvre.

The South Portland Land Trust is a private, nonprofit group of about 200 members that is working to create and preserve open space and establish 20 miles of trails that link to trails in surrounding communities.

Staff Writer Megan Doyle contributed to this report.

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