Salem volunteer has helped pick up 9 tons of trash in the city

Dave Newman, left, and Mayor Chuck Bennett pose for a photo. (Courtesy/city of Salem)

Dave Newman has picked up a lot of trash.

In the last decade, he’s collected 18,350 pounds of garbage from Salem’s streets. It’s more trash than all the city’s 96 Adopt-A-Highway groups collect in a year.

His interest in trash collecting stemmed from his time driving a bus for the Salem Keizer School District.

It was a job with a lot of sitting and he was trying to figure out something that would give him a little exercise.

“I like to see the roads a little cleaner. I’ve had people tell me, ‘Wow, what you’re doing is great saving the planet.’ That’s not my motivation,” he said.

Newman was given an award by the city of Salem this month for his work volunteering.

He said he goes when he has time. Before he retired, it was in between bus runs or after work. Now, the 75-year-old times his pickups around the weather.

He’ll typically go out for two to four hours a few times a week, depending on how much debris there is. Newman doesn’t track his steps but said he gets a fair amount of exercise from the cleanups.

He didn’t want to pick up trash along a road that had been adopted and always goes out solo.

The city of Salem issued him a grabber, garbage bags, a vest and sharps containers. Once he’s done, he leaves garbage bags and calls the city to pick them up.

In a loop on his belt is a small garbage bag he uses to pick up glass separately. 

“You name it, I’ve found it,” he said.

One time he found three bags full of women’s underwear. Another time he found a fresh caught fish.

Then there was the time in east Salem when he picked a chunk of plywood up and 30 voles scattered.

He said the level of garbage depends on the street. Take Southeast McGilchrist Street between Pringle Road and 25th Street. Newman said he could get a full bag walking that stretch once a week.

He said when people see him out, he gets a lot of honks and thumbs up.

“People roll down the windows and holler ‘Thank you,’” he said.

On hot days, people have stopped to give him water.

He said those gestures make him realize people do notice the effort he’s putting in.

“Stuff like that I really appreciate,” Newman said.

Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, [email protected].

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