Talking Trash and Cleaning Up along the Shawsheen Riverbank

Chainsaw in hand, John Zupkus (far right) posed with Sandra Doherty, Justin Damon, TJ Karis, Marlies Henderson and just some of the trash they collected along the banks of the Shawsheen River – Courtesy image (c) 2017 all rights reserved Not in picture: Laurie Hartwick and Brian Henderson.

Submitted by Marlies Henderson

Bedford resident John Zupkus along with several Billerica residents worked to clean up the Shawsheen River off the Stop & Shop parking lot in late September. They collected 200 pounds of trash and towed three shopping carts and a bicycle out of riverbed muck.

It was fun and rewarding doing this together, but part of the clean-up party is to raise awareness so we and future generations can enjoy pristine rivers. The preservation of our limited natural resources is at stake!

Trash goes with the flow, so if not dealt with at the source in Bedford, sooner or later Bedford trash would reach Billerica, then Tewksbury, Andover, and Lawrence where the Shawsheen enters the Merrimack River, which in turn hands the trash off to the ocean.

The North Atlantic Ocean currents gradually collect floating debris in a gyro-patch that is hundreds of miles across; a toxic soup the size of Texas! How come?

“No big deal” replied a girl when I asked her why she nonchalantly tossed a cup. Some blatantly fling disposables away in plain view, including disinfecting wipes, right out the car window. Others will fling their trash far into thorn bushes and poison ivy, out of sight and harder to reach by clean-up volunteers.

Drive-thru places like Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, and MacDonald contribute to an abundance of roadside trash as their packaging containers reveal– and also liquor stores:

Nips. Tiny bottles containing a shot worth of Peppermint Schnapps or cinnamon flavored Fireball. While breath may not give it away,  trash volunteers know the drivers’ drink: the Bedford Stop & Shop parking lot is frequented by a bourbon addict as evidenced by hundreds of Jack Daniels nips littering the Shawsheen banks. Chuck it in the berm and we’ll tell you what you chug.

No really, it is best to leave no trace of trash behind; enjoy, and respect the environment. Refer to Bedford’s Residential Recycling and Trash Guide for detailed information. Thank you!

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Sandra Hackman
October 29, 2017 2:16 pm

Thanks for the hard work and informative article! As a runner, I pick up trash every time I take my 5-7-mile loops. There’s more every day.

Are we doing all we can to encourage awareness of the importance of curbing this blight in our schools? Of course, people of all ages throw this stuff. How about requesting that fast food and liquor establishments post signs asking people to dispose of their trash responsibly?

Meanwhile if each of us could regularly collect the trash on the land in front of our homes, including the woods and along the street, we could keep this unsightly and environmentally destructive mess under control.

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