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Teenager Asher Mello cleans up Bermuda

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Asher Mello, picking up trash as part of his volunteer initiative BDA Clean-up (Photograph supplied)

Teenager Asher Mello has spent all summer driving around Bermuda picking up garbage.

“I put the trash bag on my bike and take it to the dump,” Mr Mello, 16, said.

He is not under punishment, and he does not need community service hours; he does it for the heck of it.

“I never get bored,” he said. “It might sound very repetitive, but seeing that change come about after I have cleaned an area is very rewarding.”

Eight months ago he started by cleaning up his own neighbourhood near Pinnacle Hill in Paget.

“Then I thought, why couldn’t I turn this into something on a larger scale?” he said.

So he launched a volunteer initiative BDA Clean-up.

“I wanted to be able to pick up trash more nimbly, without having to rely on large organised events,” he said. “I wanted to just go out and do a trash pick up when the need came up.”

He created a website for BDA Clean-up that allows people to request having an area cleaned.

Last week he did a patch behind a bus stop in Warwick.

“I filled up two trash bags doing that,” Mr Mello said.

He also did a neighbourhood in Smith’s, and a section of Church Bay in Warwick.

Earlier in the summer he also cleaned up Chapel Road, Paget and a stretch of road in St George’s near the airport.

Asher Mello uses his own pocket money to buy trash bags to clean up Bermuda (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

He said it would be “awesome” to have other people helping him, but at the moment, it is usually just him, or the occasional family member such as his mother, Terri Mello.

When he was younger, his family would often pick up trash as they went for walks together on the beach. Sometimes it would be a few plastic bottles, other times it would be plastic bags.

“It was really cool to me to see the change that picking up a couple of pieces of trash would bring,” he said. “We have a lot of natural beauty in Bermuda. It is very, very rewarding to do this.”

Mr Mello said littering has been a problem on the island for a long time.

“We need to make the effort to not be the person who just walks by, but be the person who deals with it,” he said.

He has a great respect for the work of the KBB island clean-up charity.

“The scale of the clean-ups that they’re doing is really cool,” he said. “They actually reached out to me recently about the possibility of them providing me with supplies.”

At the moment he goes through about ten large garbage bags a week which he buys with his own money.

“I pack groceries during the week,” he said. “I use the money from that.”

Because of the heat right now he tries to work in the morning when it is still relatively cool, or he works for shorter periods of time. He always wears gloves and boots, and also has a grabber tool that allows him to pick things up without actually touching them.

“I try not to touch anything that could be harmful,” he said. “There is a lot of stuff like cigarettes, and cigarette boxes.”

The biggest challenge for him is the amount of trash in some of the areas he tidies.

“Recently, I went out to clean up trash in one neighbourhood, and it was very unassuming from the outside,” he said. “I thought there is not that much trash here. On closer inspection, however, there was a lot more. So obviously, it wasn't something that one person on a bike could easily tackle in one session.”

While he is working, people often stop to ask him what he is doing.

“The people that I have spoken to have been just very excited about some of the stuff that I've been doing,” he said. “It is very encouraging.”

He has particularly enjoyed chatting with visitors to the island while he is beautifying local beaches.

“They have been very enthusiastic,” he said. “They think it is very cool.”

He believes that cleaning up an area might have a knock-on impact.

“My biggest concern is just making people conscious that one piece of trash that they are putting down makes a difference,” he said. “Sometimes people think oh well, I am just throwing one piece of trash onto the ground. They do not want to make that extra effort and find a trash tin. When the next person comes along and sees that trash, it makes it easier for them also to throw trash on the ground. It becomes a cycle.”

He is home-schooled, and plans to go to university in a year to study computer science, particularly programming and software development. He is looking at creating an app that would allow people to send him an alert when they see a particularly messy part of the island.

“Some people are not that comfortable with e-mail,” he said.

His hope is that his brother Asa, 11, will take up the mantle of BDA Clean-up when he goes away to school.

“When I go out to pick up trash he always asks if he can come with me,” Mr Mello said. “He is very excited and willing to help. I could definitely see him taking it on in the future.”

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Published August 21, 2023 at 8:00 am (Updated August 22, 2023 at 8:06 am)

Teenager Asher Mello cleans up Bermuda

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