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"Trash Punx" bring energy to Earth Day cleanup of San Jose's Guadalupe River Park

Group holds Earth Day clean-up at San Jose's Guadalupe River
Group holds Earth Day clean-up at San Jose's Guadalupe River 03:03

A volunteer group that picks up trash around San Jose is gaining attention for its high-energy and fast-paced cleanups.

Justin Imamura takes a different approach when it comes to cleaning up the city.

"Okay. Always gotta have music here, there you go!" Iwamura said as a song starts playing. "Always gotta keep the energy high throughout the entire event."

It's a mentality he borrowed from his experience as a drummer in the South Bay's punk rock scene.

"I wanted to bring that same DIY do-it-yourself energy to cleaning up our world. We're not waiting on people, we're doing it ourselves. We're getting past all the red tape, all the barriers, breaking through to make a difference in this world," Iwamura went on to say. "And that's where the Trash Punx name comes from and that's what we're all about."

Iwamura started the Trash Punx in 2017 after he got tired of seeing trash pile up in around his neighborhood.

On this Earth Day, he led about 50 volunteers in tackling trash at Guadalupe River Park.

Volunteers with "Trash Punx" perform an Earth Day cleanup at Guadalupe River Park in San Jose on April 22, 2024. CBS

And he even got Mayor Matt Mahan to sign on for a shift.

"I'm so impressed with Justin and the Trash Punx. They make cleaning up the city just fun and engaging.  They've made it a social experience. People come out have food, listen to music," Mahan said. "They're not just picking up trash, they are building community and taking pride in our city."

Shari Hall is one of the volunteers. She was recently laid off and is spending her time between jobs on projects like this.

"I've been doing this a few times now with the Trash Punx and I can see the difference every time I am out here. It gets a little bit better, a little bit better every time," Hall said as she picked up trash along a bike path.

Things got challenging when the volunteers came upon a large homeless encampment.

"These are people, and this is our community and we so we want to show some love to them. Let's clean up the area and let's get it done," Imamura said.

The volunteers swarmed around large piles of open trash, bagged it all up and made piles which the city will pick up later.

The Trash Punx reputation is growing.

Imamura has been to Kenya to advise village leaders who started a program, and the same could be happening with a group in China.

In dealing with a problem that can easily seem overwhelming, Imamura's motto is to pick up one piece of trash at a time.

And it all adds up, Imamura said the Trash Punx is on track to pick up their millionth pound of trash later this year.

The group also organizes E-waste collection events to safely dispose of outdated and unused electronics.

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