Riding against roadside rubbish for 'Operation Tidy Cans'

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BISMARCK, N.D. - We've all heard that "one person can make a difference." Many people have taken that attitude to heart and have gone above and beyond the call of duty to make the world a better place.

Reporter Cliff Naylor gives us one more example of someone who didn't pass by a problem, but instead took it upon himself to provide a solution.

This idealist just happens to be Cliff's brother.

Ken Naylor has ridden the rural roads of Cass and Clay Counties since 2002.

He logs 5,000 miles a year his bicycle.

This year Ken noticed something different along the route he's traveled thousands of times.

"Lots and lots and lots of cans in the ditch. And it was bothering me," said Ken.

Most people would just drive by the debris.

Ken said, "I'm not most people."

When something bothers Ken, he comes up with a solution.

In his garage, littered with bicycle parts and equipment, he hammered out an answer to the roadside rubbish issue that became a thorn in his riding routine.

"It took a little bit of effort, a little bit of thought and that's the beauty of it," said Ken.

Ken collected Tidy Cat Kitty Litter containers, turned them into recycle bins, and labeled them "Operation Tidy Cans."

"It's a play on the Tidy Cat bucket, take the "T" away, put the "N" in and I'm trying to keep the can's tidy," said Ken.

Once assembled, he attached the bright, colorful canisters to sign posts along his route.

Thirteen Tidy Can crates are strategically placed about three miles apart.

They serve as collection sites for all the garbage he hand picks, so he can periodically take the weight of this can crusade off his back.

"It's litter, it's ugly. Once someone throws one in the ditch it will be there 20 years from now," said Ken.

This good deed didn't go unnoticed.

"I was hoping to fly under the radar and be anonymous," said Ken.

Ken didn't notify the county road department about "Operation Tidy Cans" because he hoped it would be easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission.

"When you attach something to a highway sign, there's paperwork, applications, and fees.

But once the bright yellow bins were in place, people contacted the solid waste department about the unusual roadside receptacles.

Shannon Thompson, Clay County Solid Waste: It's a great idea and we're all on board, so he didn't need to worry.

Shannon Thompson, is the education coordinator for the Clay County Solid Waste Department. She says a $100 permit fee for placing each recycle bin in ditches is being taken care of by the county.

The single citizen committee to Keep Clay County Clean has collected more than 85 pounds of aluminum.

Ken said, "Next year I hope to bring in a couple of other people, many hands make light work."

Ken would also like motorists to curb the urge to throw garbage out of the window, but until that happens, he'll continue to pick up after them.

Next year Ken Naylor plans to deploy eight additional Tidy Can Containers. Fifteen will be located in Cass County, 18 in Clay County and Clay County is paying to have new weather resistant vinyl stickers made for the recycling receptacles.