San Jose program triples volunteer hours and increases demand for trash pickup

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo is looking to expand BeautifySJ, a program the city launched in 2017 to help clean up trash in public spaces.

Liccardo is hoping the success of the program will justify his new proposal for $3.5 million in the upcoming budget to expand the program. The money will go to hire someone to manage the increasing number of clean-up volunteers, which has tripled in size and the demand coming from residents reporting pick-ups through the MySanJose app, which has also tripled.

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BeautifySJ has inspired more than 70 community groups around San Jose, including Justin Imamura who founded the group, Trash Punx. Every month, he gathers hundreds of volunteers to pick up trash all over the city.

Imamura took us to a patch on Story Road and Senter Road which was full of garbage, even after his most recent effort.

"You know it can get discouraging but honestly I'm just here to clean up the environment, that's all I want to do and that's what I'm going to keep doing because I have a passion for it," he said.

Trash Punx has picked up thousands of bags of garbage, tackling the dirtiest of sites, some full of used syringes.

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"We all do it because we love San Jose," he added.

Imamura is a star volunteer. The Mayor knows him by name and often uses Justin's example to encourage more volunteers.

Liccardo wants to hire staff to manage the city's growing group of volunteers, many of whom connect with the city for resources like bags, gloves and grants. He also wants to expand a program that hires homeless individuals to pick up trash.

The program started with 30 people, who were paid an hourly wage. Seven of those people have now been hired for full-time jobs, encouraging the Mayor to use the program as a much-needed workforce pipeline.

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"This is our city, we need to take back these public spaces so that people recognize this is ours and they're not simply going to trash it," he said.

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