All of a sudden, the litter was gone. For a couple years at least, I’d been riding my bike along a certain route in Duxbury, crossing a stream on Temple Street near the Camp Wing Conservation area. For all that time, there had been a beer can, a red and white bobber trailing fishing line, and some miscellaneous plastic junk, caught in the stream. It was far enough from the road that it couldn’t be reached easily by hand, but close enough that I could see it from my bike.
And then one day it was gone.
I wondered if perhaps some good citizen had waded into the stream and removed it. But I figured it was more likely Mother Nature – perhaps a heavy rain and increased the water flow and loosened the clot of trash, washing it farther downstream.
But then a few days later I believe my question was answered. I was riding down that same street when I noticed, coming from the other direction, two people and a tricked-out cart, not much larger than a child’s red wagon. It was a man and a woman, and they were poking around at the roadside. They were picking up litter! In fact, after I passed them, I turned back for a better look, and it was plain to see that their cart had been customized for the task. There were several compartments, probably to separate recyclable and redeemable matter from just-plain-trash. he cart also bore a little placard. It read, “DuxburyLitterPatrol.com”
When I got home from my ride, I looked it up. According to the website, Duxbury Litter Patrol is a group of “concerned citizens who have united in their desire to rid the streets of litter.” The membership currently consists of about 35 volunteers. That doesn’t sound like much, but that’s 35 people who are out there on a regular basis, cleaning up the streets of Duxbury!
The website explains that the organization was founded by Mary Gazzola, a longtime Duxbury resident and walking enthusiast who became disgusted by the increasing amounts of litter she noticed at the roadsides during her walks. Mary began carrying a bag with her, picking up whatever trash she came across. Recognizing that the litter problem too large for one person to handle, in 2011 she organized the first Duxbury Litter Sweep, a townwide clean-up event where Mary was able to connect with like-minded fellow residents. Duxbury Litter Patrol evolved from there.
The organization operates on a “Three E’s” platform. They hope to “Educate” people about the litter problem in town, “Enforce” litter laws, and “Eradicate” litter from the community. To give the effort some teeth, Mary worked with town manager Richard MacDonald to bring a new litter bylaw to the 2012 Town Meeting. In May of that year, Duxbury residents voted in favor of making littering a fineable offense. And thus now, “No person shall dispose of rubbish, filth, hazardous materials, or litter of any kind on any street, sidewalk, or other publicly-owned area in the Town, with the exception of the Town Disposal area.”
The bylaw is enforced by the town police as well as the Health Agent, and fines start at $100 per offense. With Thanksgiving approaching, I can’t help but think of the song and the film it was made into, with Arlo Guthrie and his Alice’s Restaurant cohorts going to court on a littering charge after their illegally-disposed waste was traced back to them via an address on a discarded envelope!
But these days, people know better than to toss trash on the roadsides, right? Right? Sadly, no. Thus, education is one of Duxbury Litter Patrol’s primary purposes. They hope to teach people how litter negatively impacts the community – destroying natural beauty, harming or killing wildlife, and diminishing water quality. Even cigarette butts can cause trouble. The streets look so much better than they aren’t cluttered with empty cans and bottles, fast food wrappers, and lottery tickets. Keeping the roadsides clean seems to work as a deterrent, as litterers are much more likely to strike in areas where there is already detritus.
Eradication of litter is a never-ending task. Duxbury Litter Patrol has made it easier for kind-hearted citizens to join the effort by offering a Adopt-A-Spot program, where families and individuals can take responsibility for a certain street, corner, or park, and keep it clear of litter, committing to a clean-up every four to six weeks. The semi-annual Duxbury Litter Sweep continues as well. This past May, volunteers collected a half-ton of trash!
You don’t have to live in Duxbury to take up the Litter Patrol crusade. It’s a pretty safe bet that in any town on the South Shore, the eradication of litter by private citizens would be welcome. Even small efforts can make a difference. The Department of Public Works in each town takes some responsibility for roadside clean-up, but they can only do so much.
There is a man in Marshfield who, in his retirement, has made it his hobby to pick up litter. He has his routes – certain spots he hits on a weekly basis. He brings truckfuls of trash and recyclables to the landfill and typically finds close to $1,000 worth of redeemable cans & bottles. No, it’s not his responsibility to clean up the roads, but the litter bothers him, so he removes it. I admire that.
If you’d like to join the Duxbury Littler Patrol effort, visit the website DuxburyLitterPatrol.com for more info, or email DuxburyLitterPatrol@gmail.com. Telephone numbers are listed online as well.
Also consider the North and South Rivers Watershed Association’s annual River Clean Up Day, which focuses on the waterways of several towns each spring. For details, visit www.nsrwa.org.
If you’d like to do a little roadside clean-up of your own, please consider the following safety guidelines posted on the Duxbury Litter Patrol website. And thank you, in advance, for your efforts!
• Wear bright-colored clothing so that you are easily visible to passing motorists.
• Wear gloves and use a “REACHER” or “PICK STICK” tool for hard to reach items.
• Wear sunscreen and use a DEETbug spray to ward off mosquitoes and TICKS.
• Scrub exposed skin upon returning home if you may have been in contact with poison ivy.
• Needles should be brought to the Tremont Street Fire Station for proper disposal.
• Do not attempt to pick up any hazardous material or any large, heavy items yourself. Instead, email the details to us or contact the Highway Department to have the items removed.
• It is strongly suggested to walk on one side of the street, towards traffic, then crossing the street for the return trip. There are always exceptions. Please be very alert and careful.
by Kezia Bacon, Correspondent
Kezia Bacon’s articles appear courtesy of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, a local non-profit organization devoted to the preservation, restoration, maintenance and conservation of the North and South Rivers and their watershed. For membership information and a copy of their latest newsletter, contact NSRWA at (781) 659-8168 or visit www.nsrwa.org. To browse 15 years of Nature (Human and Otherwise) columns, visit http://keziabaconbernstein.blogspot.com