Put in it's place

Tewksbury volunteer clean up crews will be out in full force on Saturday. Someone clearly didn't follow directions. The bag says' "Please Recycle This Bag"!

Photo by Maureen Brady

Tewksbury and Wilmington clean up after lazy litterers.

Can you identify which of the following contributes to littering?

-Pedestrians and cyclists who do not use trash receptacles.

-Motorists who toss or dump trash along roadsides and highways.

-Businesses and residences with improperly covered trash receptacles.

-Debris that falls from unsecured trucks and motor vehicles.

The answer: all of the above.

In both public and private spaces throughout Wilmington and Tewksbury, the most common types of litter are plastic bottles and bags, fast food containers, broken glass, gum, beer and soda cans, nip bottles and construction parts with an occasional mattress or tire.

State and local laws attempt to discourage this illegal behavior with fines and suspended driving licenses. Massachusetts General Law, chapter 270, section 16 even requires the offender to remove the litter at their own cost, with 50 percent of any applicable fine placed into a conservation fund.

Additionally, every community has separate bylaws, assistant town manager, Kendra Amaral told the Crier. “State law covers everyone. Every community has separate bylaws and can enact separate restrictions and penalties.”

Approximately $11.5 billion is spent annually on litter clean up, according to a study by Keep America Beautiful. Local taxpayers would agree; this money could be put to far better use.

Consider these costly consequences: litter can reduce your property value, deter customers from shopping locally, impact business owners’ decisions to move into the community, damage conservation land and its ecosystems and contribute to health issues for animals and humans.

Cigarette butts for example contribute to 1.69 billion pounds of toxic waste each year as reported by Americans for Non-Smokers’ Rights (ANR). Cigarette butts are not biodegradable. They are made of cellulose acetate which could take up to a decade to disintegrate.

Results from the nation’s largest litter study show cigarette butts are the most frequently littered item on the ground (85%), in bushes and shrubbery (37%) and around trash receptacles (25%).

Two major factors drive litter – and this can be applied to most forms of littering – the availability of trash receptacles and the amount of existing litter already in the area.

In other words, litter begets more litter.

Various studies on the psychology of litterers report people tend to do it when they see it because the message is “it’s okay, everyone else does it.”

Consider that the next time you see volunteers cleaning roadside, on the beach, or in your local parks.

Wilmington and Tewksbury depend on volunteers to help keep their communities clean and visually appealing.

Annually, Wilmington holds a town clean-up day, typically the last Saturday in September, according to the Planning and Conservation Department.

“I think we do a very good job of staying ahead of it,” said director of public works, Michael Woods. “If anyone sees a specific area that is heavily littered, please report to us for our list of places to take care of.” He mentioned several companies in town organize cleanup with their work staff, such as Charles River Laboratories.

Woods said man hours are spent every week on trash clean up. “Sometimes those areas are repeatedly cleaned on a monthly basis,” he said. Including vacant lots and areas where people are dumping. “Areas that we see high levels are traffic have congregations of people in the evening hours that don’t pick up after themselves.” However he has seen a marked improvement of trash and destruction of property (which can go hand in hand) on Silver Lake from previous years.

“We appreciate all that our residents do to help keep the town clean already and please let us know if there are any issues,” said town manager, Jeff Hull.

The Tewksbury Beautification Committee is having its Spring Clean Up Day, this Saturday, May 2 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Newly elected Tewksbury Selectman Mark Kratman, a resident of the town for fifteen years, believes the amount of litter has remained the same. “It seems to be near highly populated areas like Market Basket or coffee shops,” he said. “It’s not that people aren’t putting their trash in the garbage, it’s blowing out of the receptacles.” Around Market Basket, empty plastic bags blow out of carriages and into trees. He added that debris like water bottles are commonly found around the Livingston playground. “Maybe we should look at adding more trash receptacles.”

Another idea was to look into the trash compactors some other towns currently use.

Kratman, an Assistant Operations Engineer for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, says the state has a cleanup and repair schedule it adheres to every year. The state traditionally works on road repairs first, beginning in April, then litter removal – which for Wilmington and Tewksbury involves the state highway along Route 38.

The state is still catching up from the harsh winter, said Kratman. “We are three or four weeks behind. Sweeping and litter patrols are usually done by now.”

Instead it will be completed next week. The roadways are in poor shape because of the heavy ice and snow, Kratman explained.

The state must first fix all stop signs, crossing and mile marker signs that have fallen during winter storms in addition to potholes and cracks in the roads. “We prioritize the most hazardous issues first,” Kratman said.

Next month, The Department of Transportation will clean all state highways and catch basins; the drains along highways that catch water runoff and fill with sediment. This includes Route 38 and Interstate 93 (I-93), which affect Wilmington and Tewksbury.

Residents are invited to join the Tewksbury Beautification Committee for its 3rd Spring Clean Up Day, Saturday, May 2 from 9AM-2PM. Captains will be assigned for each area. Safety vests, “pick-sticks”, bags and gloves will be handed out. Sign up via http://www.signupgenius.com/go/10c0a45aea723a5ff2-spring1 or by emailing clean.up.tewksbury@gmail.com.

This is an ideal opportunity to earn Community Service hours, and there is a free raffle for donated prizes from local merchants including Jim Boudreau’s Auto, Altitude Trampoline Park, Merrimack Valley Pavilion, AAA of Southern New England, MacDonald’s, and Orange Leaf of Tewksbury.

For more information on reporting areas that require trash pick up call your local DPW.

For Wilmington’s town clean up dates, call the Planning & Conservation Department at 978‐658‐8238

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