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Local River Advocates Hold Businesses Accountable for River Trash

GREENFIELD — The Connecticut River Conservancy (CRC) is hosting its 23rd annual Source to Sea Cleanup on Sept. 27-28. This year, CRC is asking cleanup participants and all who enjoy the rivers to join it in demanding an end to trashed rivers. CRC is challenging two companies via social media — Dunkin’ Donuts and Cumberland Farms — whose trash is regularly found during the Source to Sea Cleanup. Learn how to get involved at www.ctriver.org/takeaction.

“After cleaning up tons of trash year after year for 22 years, it’s clear that repeated cleaning is not the solution to our trash problem,” CRC Executive Director Andrew Fisk said. “We need to redesign our economy so there isn’t waste in the first place. It’s time businesses step up to voluntarily do the right thing by offering more sustainable, reusable, recyclable, and compostable options.”

CRC encourages all individuals to always properly dispose of and recycle waste rather than contributing to litter in the rivers. Still, businesses and corporations play a big role in deciding what products end up in consumers’ hands and eventually make their way into the waste stream. CRC argues it’s time that corporations take responsibility for their role in trashing the rivers.

“We invite everyone to join us in telling them we expect better,” said Stacey Lennard, cleanup coordinator. CRC points out that, given how much Dunkin’ Donuts and Cumberland Farms trash is found during the Source to Sea Cleanup, these companies have a unique opportunity to make a huge difference for the rivers by using more environmentally friendly options.

Consumers have been trained by businesses to rely on unnecessary disposable and single-use plastics, Fisk noted. Meanwhile, businesses and manufacturers are profiting by making these products out of cheap, petroleum-based plastic that is harmful and doesn’t easily break down. Producers and manufacturers then pass the responsibility and disposal costs for the products they make to the consumers, which leads to litter and polluted rivers.

According to the CRC, the best way businesses and corporations can cut down on their products becoming litter in the rivers is to offer more reusable options, like coffee mugs and drink cups. Dunkin’ already offers a robust line of reusable mug options, but don’t promote or incentivize them, Fisk said, whereas Cumberland Farms offers few reusable options. Additionally, bio-plastics are emerging as a promising alternative to plastic made from fossil fuels. There are plenty of eco-friendly cups and dishware items on the market that businesses should be using, he went on. These new plastics are compostable, break down in the marine environment as food, are made from waste, and are made with less energy and environmental impact than traditional petroleum plastics.

“We all have a responsibility to solve this problem,” Fisk said. “We are responsible as consumers to make good choices in how we purchase and dispose of products. Manufacturers, businesses, and government are also responsible  and it’s time they do their part. By working together, we can make a real difference for our rivers. These ideas are going to take time, decades even. And we’ll keep at it as long as it takes. But our rivers need change now.”

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