Roman Phillips, left, goes over a safety briefing with volunteers Monday. (Contributed photo)

There were tires, hub caps, cardboard boxes and plastic bags. Lots of plastic bags, in fact.

Roman Phillips

Sixty-five people turned up Monday on the Martin Luther King Jr. National Day of Service, answering Fort Mill teen Roman Phillips’ call to help clean up the stream between Lake Elliott and I-77 and clear the shoulder of the interstate. At the end of a long morning, the group had pulled out over 500 pounds of trash.

The volunteers included people from the Fort Mill High School Beta Club, Boy Scouts, Trail Club members from Baxter and friends and neighbors of Phillips, who is 15 years old.

But this wasn’t a new thing for Phillips. This was his 13th time organizing a work day, an effort that has removed 8,000 pounds of trash from around Baxter.

What motivates the teen to care so much about the environment? He’s working to earn a rare William T. Hornaday Medal for Conservation offered by Scouts BSA (Boy Scouts of America). As part of his efforts to earn the award, he’s worked on a Duck Project to study and document ducks, a Plastic Film Recycling Project and the Baxter Stream Clean Up Project.

Philips is also studying microplastics in the local streams with a doctorate student at Clemson University, Stephanie LaPlaca, and he has sent samples to her for processing from the stream clean-up area.

“No one was surprised how my samples contained both tire fragments AND microplastics,” Phillips wrote in a recent newsletter to his community. “Remember, those storm drains are directly from the interstate which could likely have both contaminates.”

To help decrease the problem, Phillips has helped recycle over 2,000 pounds of plastic film by collecting grocery bags in boxes placed around Baxter. He is working with Trex, the composite lumber company, to recycle this film and get community benches in return.

The teen’s hard work is paying off. He was named the Environmental student of the year by Keep York County Beautiful, York County Recycling AND York County schools. And the Hornaday award is not far behind.

Phillips – son of Scott and Lisa Phillips – said if he wasn’t organizing a clean effort Monday, he would NOT have been goofing off or playing video games. He’s got too much to do.

“I could be studying for exams. I also like to 3D Print and I like to drive,” he said. “But for now, I’m trying to finish up the Hornaday award.”