Modified remote-control car picks up trash and a lot of attention
When husband and wife Glenn and Dorothea Morris walk the beach, they’re often accompanied by a wheeled sidekick.
Since 2019, the Morrises have used their litter buggy, a modified remote-control car, to collect trash they find on the beach. Glenn Morris has gained some internet fame with his social media posts about the buggy, which he’ll drive in front of him while he picks up trash and drops it in the bucket attached to the car.
The hobby makes Dorothea Morris feel like she’s doing something to help the environment, she said.
“It just feels good to know that a fish may not chew on this straw that I picked up,” Morris said.
And Glenn Morris also likes the challenge of finding trash on the beach, he said.
“Every time I go to a restaurant, I like to get the kid’s menus that have ‘find the item,’” Morris said. “This is just a big game of that.”
The Morrises began taking their buggy out to the beach in 2019. Initially, they were just looking for a laugh by rolling over piles of sand and abandoned sandcastles, Dorthea said.
But as they noticed all the trash on the beach, they began to recognize another use for the remote-control car.
They typically start at one of the busier tourist areas, like Stewart Beach, East Beach or 61st Street, and walk until the buggy runs out of battery.
If they take the buggy out several times on a busy weekend, they might pick up several hundred pounds of trash. They’ll find everything from food wrappers to diapers. During the summer, the Morrises find lots of sand toys people left on the beach, they said. In the winter, the trash shifts toward older trash that’s washed up on shore or containers that have fallen off ships, they said.
By now, the Morrises have been through seven models of the litter buggies.
Glenn has made all the buggies himself, a laborious process that requires breaking down a remote-control car to the nuts and bolts, he said.
He makes specific adaptations to the hobby-style remote control cars specific to their beach trash-collecting purpose.
For example, he’ll typically replace all the screws with stainless steel, which prevents them from rusting in the salty beach environment, he said. He also removes the tops and creates a custom base that will allow a 5-gallon bucket to sit on top of the cars.
Morris also has to make special modifications to make the cars strong enough to carry the trash and ensure they can turn on a dime to weave around tourists when the beach is busy, he said.
Although the Morrises pick up trash in the dark, pre-dawn hours, they often like to go out when people are likely to see them, Glenn said.
Seeing people pick up trash — especially with the creative buggy — often will encourage beachgoers to be more mindful of their own litter, he said.
“Folks will pick up their trash when they see us coming,” Morris said.
The Morrises are getting other people interested in picking up trash, including a neighbor who often joins them.
Glenn Morris also regularly posts videos and pictures of the litter buggy, and the trash he has collected, to social media groups and those images have inspired someone in Oregon and another person in the United Kingdom to build their own trash-collecting cars, Morris said.
Morris also sells the cars at build cost to locals interested in picking up trash. But it can be somewhat expensive to build a car that stands up to the task. The car alone, without any modifications, can cost $400, Morris said.
But the cars last a long time, he said.
It’s encouraging to see more people interested in helping to clean up their community, wherever that might be, Dorothea said.
“If we got more people involved, we could make a bigger difference,” Morris said.