How a global pandemic birthed a group of community and climate warriors who stand all for one, and one for all against the Los Angeles litter crisis.

When the Covid-19 pandemic began in 2020, it acted as a wake up call for much of the world on things we had lost touch with. It allowed us to finally slow down and breathe, to come to the realization that our culture of endlessly being on the go was not only detrimental to humanity, but our environment. Many of us never realized how essential basic human connection was until it was jeopardized, until we were told to stand at a distance. At first, we started to see headlines that read “Nature is Healing,” as the environment prospered in a world less bustling. But these lowered carbon emissions were a short-lived triumph.

An increase in PPE and disposable masks, while necessary, made even more evident the overwhelming issue of litter in cities across the globe, especially hitting home for us Los Angelenos. As we once more began to trash our only world and human compassion started to wane, pressing environmental issues posed a daunting battle for any individual to take on. After all, how much can one person do? Luckily, there was a silver lining in a year where all seemed to be lost - a glimmer of hope that seemed to make it out on the other side.

Max moved from Japan to Portland, Oregon in 2012. After enjoying eight years there, he headed south to the sunny San Fernando Valley. While looking up at the palm trees, coast lines, and Japanese restaurants that tasted almost as good as home, it was easy to see all of the positives to this city of dreams. But in 2020, Max experienced a wake up call of his own. While taking his daily morning walk with Leon, his adorable dog and mascot of Overdue, he watched Leon’s paw narrowly miss a discarded heroin needle. From then on, he was no longer able to walk around without seeing discarded pieces of human life littering the streets.

In Japan, Max was accustomed to people carrying their trash to the nearest garbage can or simply taking it home. In Oregon, he witnessed impressive city wide composting and recycling education programs. LA, sadly, was falling short.

While it might have overwhelmed anyone else, Max saw the potential for change. On October 13, 2020, he hosted the first Overdue cleanup. Max understood that “lacking a sense of community in the bigger city is normal because people come and go,” and that this issue wasn’t just an environmental one, but one that was fostered by a lack of connection to the impact littering will have on one's neighbors and community as a whole.

Through word of mouth and by posting online, Max began to build a community of people that were all feeling the same pull to action. From lifelong locals to those new to the city, all of the members of Overdue have had their own reasons for joining the group.


“It feels good to be contributing to making the world better as a family.” -Mayu

Mayu first heard of Overdue in a newsletter from the zero waste shop Prostainable where she happily gets to refill her personal care products. After signing up for the Overdue newsletter, it took her a couple weeks to eventually bring her two young sons to the family’s first cleanup in May of 2021. She recalls, “Growing up in Japan, I participated in cleanups as a child as part of the school curriculum and during community events, I wanted my children to have the same experiences.” Mayu expresses that she wants her children to “be proud of what they have been doing to protect the environment,” and be “inspired to be proactive about starting their own projects after watching the Overdue team, all of whom have been wonderful role models for them…Overdue crew are always kind to my children and educate them with love.” Her husband, a local social studies teacher, also makes it a point to educate his students on environmental impacts, something that is desperately needed. Mayu and her family have been an amazing addition to Overdue and her dreams for her boys are already coming true as they are recipients of The Presidential Volunteer Service Award from Joe Biden. For Mayu, she says her favorite part of Overdue has been the community, where her family has made new friends that they are especially grateful for after a year of isolation.

“I think the reason I like [Los Angeles] is because of Overdue.” -Abby

Abby and her boyfriend Adam moved to Los Angeles in June 2021 after they had both been spending some time in Westchester, NY with family. With social distancing still in effect and her preconceived ideas of LA all looking like Beverly Hills, she wasn’t sure how she would get along but soon developed a love for the San Fernando Valley. Wanting to find her place in this new community, she perused Nextdoor, where she came across Overdue. She saw that they would be tabling at a local concert which she and Adam used as an opportunity to learn more. Thankfully for us, they liked what they heard and joined their first cleanup, which turned into their next cleanup and the next after that. A few months of cleanups, and a beer at one of our Trashy Fridays later, Abby joined the board and was soon the director of the LA River Cleanup where she actively works with partners and politicians on a project to create litter barriers in the LA River. Like Mayu, Abby’s favorite part of Overdue is the community aspects of the group and that it has ultimately made her “happy” where she lives.



“I think this just made it feel like we could actually make a difference, rather than feeling lost.” -Brendan

Brendan and Daphne were also brought to us via the interconnecting internet when they found a posting on Meetup. Feeling a bit disconnected due to the pandemic, Brendan was looking for a place he and his wife could make new friends. Coming across Overdue, he “thought it was a group Daphne would like, since she has been into environmentalism for a while.” Their first cleanup was a Trashy Friday in October of 2021 and they have been coming almost every weekend since.

Anyone that knows Brendan and Daphne knows that they also have some winged children, as they care for rescue pigeons. One of which (Marcus) frequents cleanups with them and has become loved by all, something the dogs of Overdue have had to learn to get over. Brendan says his favorite part of Overdue has been making new like-minded friends and the Trashy Fridays, “it’s great to clean for a bit, then have a couple drinks and socialize.” We agree!

Our members make up different kinds of families, have different backgrounds, are various ages, work in all types of industry sectors, and all stand by Max’s belief that if people see their fellow citizens volunteering their free time to pick up litter, they will be less likely to litter themselves. We hope that by creating a cleaner Los Angeles, we will create a safer Los Angeles, and cultivate a stronger climate conscious community local and afar.


Be sure to join us for a clean up or follow along with us to see volunteer profiles, event recaps, at home sustainability solutions that you can implement, and highlights of our other chapters in China, Japan, Seattle, and Los Gatos.


- Anna Darcy