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Opinion

Opinion

By Stacey Lennard

The Connecticut River Conservancy (CRC) hosts its 24th annual Source to Sea Cleanup throughout September. CRC is asking you to sign up and help spread the word about our plastic problem and the impact on our rivers. In addition to annually coordinating thousands of volunteers to clean up trash in our rivers, CRC continues to work toward solutions to the persistent problem of trash pollution. Plastic bags, bottles, and polystyrene (Styrofoam) are consistently the most-found items during the Source to Sea Cleanup, and these items never fully break down in the environment.

You can help show the problem to help solve the problem. Take a photo, video, or make art inspired by river beauty or river pollution. Get creative, use #RiverWitness, #PurgeThePlastic, and tag CRC on social media. CRC will add your images to an online mosaic photo display and video. Select images will be used to call on decision makers to enact trash solutions to keep trash out of our rivers. Show them this is important to you. Speak up for your rivers.

According to CRC, the solution to this problem is 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,” said Andrew Fisk, CRC’s executive director. “Vermont and Connecticut are leading the way with their recent state-wide bans on single-use plastics. This is particularly important due to China’s recent import restrictions on plastic waste. The cost of plastic waste is beginning to outweigh its usefulness.”

Other solutions are to make recycling easy, effective, and widely accessible; to increase the use of effective incentives like ‘bottle bills’ for recycling aluminum, plastic, and glass containers; and to disincentivize Styrofoam, especially foam dock floats in favor of enclosed foam or non-foam dock materials that won’t send plastic chunks into rivers.

“It’s time businesses step up to voluntarily do the right thing by offering more sustainable, reusable, recyclable, and compostable options. Vermont and Connecticut are leading the way with their recent state-wide bans on single-use plastics. This is particularly important due to China’s recent import restrictions on plastic waste. The cost of plastic waste is beginning to outweigh its usefulness.”

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.”

Over the past 23 years, Source to Sea Cleanup volunteers have removed more than 1,167 tons of trash from our rivers. The Source to Sea Cleanup is a river cleanup coordinated by CRC in all four states of the 410-mile Connecticut River basin. Each fall, thousands of volunteers remove tons of trash along rivers, streams, parks, boat launches, trails, and more. Eversource, USA Waste & Recycling, and All American Waste are the lead Source to Sea Cleanup sponsors.
For more information or to register for the event, visit www.ctriver.org/cleanup.

 

Stacey Lennard is Source to Sea Cleanup coordinator for the Connecticut River Conservancy.

Environment and Engineering

Now the Real Work Begins

On Sept. 27 and 28, an estimated 3,500 volunteers gathered at more than 125 locations along the Connecticut River and tributary streams in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Vermont for the Connecticut River Conservancy’s (CRC) 23rd annual Source to Sea Cleanup.

Volunteers with work gloves and trash bags got dirty — and some got wet — in their effort to remove nearly 50 tons of trash from in and along the rivers. This massive effort for cleaner rivers included over 50 groups from the Massachusetts region of the four-state Connecticut River basin. Groups included local river and conservation groups; elementary, high-school, and college students; Girl and Boy Scouts; and many employee volunteer groups from local businesses.

Notably, CRC worked with Northeast Paving and the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department to remove 650 tires from a tire dump along the Deerfield River in Greenfield. The effort involved manually loading tires into machinery that hauled the tires from the ravine and trucking them to another location where they were hosed off by the Greenfield Fire Department and later removed for recycling by Bridgestone Tires4Ward.

Now, focus shifts to preventing trash in the first place.

“Source to Sea Cleanup volunteers’ hard work and dedication is inspiring and makes a real difference for our rivers,” says Andrew Fisk, CRC’s executive director. “But our work isn’t done until we put ourselves out of the river-cleanup business.”

While the two-day cleanup event is over for this year, CRC continues its work on trash pollution year-round. Via social media, CRC is especially challenging two companies — Dunkin’ Donuts and Cumberland Farms — whose trash is regularly found during the annual cleanup.

“We invite everyone to join us in telling them we expect better,” said Stacey Source to Sea Cleanup coordinator. “We want less single-use plastic and plastic foam, we want more reusable and compostable options, and we want items that are easier to recycle and keep out of landfills.

“We need our legislators, businesses, and manufacturers to see just how bad the problem is and hear from their constituents and customers that we aren’t going to put up with them ignoring this problem any longer,” she added. “We’ve been doing our part for 23 years by cleaning up our rivers. It’s time they finally do their part in helping solve our trash problem.”

Companies like Dunkin’ Donuts and Cumberland Farms have a unique opportunity to make a huge difference for rivers by using more environmentally friendly options, Fisk noted.

“We all have a responsibility to solve this problem — individuals, manufacturers, businesses, and government,” he said. “After cleaning up over 1,100 tons of trash over the course of 23 years, it’s clear that repeated cleaning is not the solution to our trash problem. We need to redesign our economy so there isn’t waste in the first place. 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.”

Final trash-cleanup totals are still being tallied. Volunteers turned out from faith communities, watershed groups, schools, community and youth organizations, and at least 35 businesses and employee service groups.

In addition to the tons of small litter picked up this year by volunteers, CRC’s Source to Sea Cleanup also tackles large trash-dump sites and removes large debris from the rivers. For example, 54 tires were removed from the Connecticut River at the mouth of the Ashuelot River in New Hampshire, and large chunks of metal were pulled from the Ottauquechee River in Vermont.

Eversource, the lead Source to Sea Cleanup sponsor, had three employee cleanup groups — one each in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Hampshire.

“At Eversource, we’re committed to caring for the environment and take great care to promote conservation while carefully managing natural and cultural resources,” said Rod Powell, the company’s president of Corporate Citizenship.

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