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If Trash Falls and No One Sees It, Is It Trash?

In an effort to do good, one citizen learns trash belongs to the person who finds it.

Trash day is aptly named. It is the day of the week that citizens of Hamilton and Wenham expect to see trash on their streets.

Trash day is the day that clutter and debris is eliminated, or so the idea goes. But, at times, life proves more complicated than this. When changes in town trash rules and uppity weather enter the picture, trash day becomes less a day to cleanse and simplify than a day to wrestle with outside forces.

Anyone who has ever lived with roommates knows that there is a filth tolerance gene. In a group of two or more, there is always at least one person who would rather buy paper plates than suds up a sponge, one who doesn’t think to vacuum until they lose their keys in the dust beneath their beds. These people may not notice Bud Lite cans, Twixt candy wrappers and spent lottery tickets strewn amongst leaves alongside roads.

But Lis Cloutman of Hamilton does.

“I’m very concerned that people are so oblivious to trash,” said Cloutman this week.

Cloutman, who lives near Route 22, is more aware of trash than she’d like. Often walking her dog Ella or out with her horses Woody and Stars, Cloutman gets a closer look at the landscape than drivers in their cars.

“It looks horrible, trash all in the bushes," said Cloutman. "I pick up a lot of stuff.”

The question - or at least one - is where does the trash come from? Who is responsible?

Belinda Recio, one of Cloutman’s neighbors, has a partial answer.

“On trash day, especially on windy days a lot of trash gets blown around,” Recio explained. “I know that some of our neighbors are older or dealing with illness, coping with the trash is too much for them.”

A hands-on woman, Recio made a call to Hamilton’s . Perhaps, she thought, the town has a strategy or action plan for litter removal.

The person on the receiving end of Recio’s phone call was administrative assistant to the Director of Public Works, Allison Jenkins.

“Littering is illegal and is enforced by the police,” Jenkins told Recio. However relevant, this information did not provide the sort of help Recio was hoping for.

Undeterred however, she pressed ahead and was told by Jenkins that if she liked she could purchase trash bags to contain the litter. In other words, should Recio choose to take it upon herself to rid a tract of Hamilton of litter, the town would sell her the necessary trash bags. The message came without a pat on the back.

After a moment’s thought, Recio seized the right to throw out someone else’s trash and bought the bags. Not stopping there, she went back home and rallied forces to make sure one stretch of Route 22 was clean.

It is hard to say whether trash removed is less noticeable than trash left behind - but make a note that what you don’t see is what you get from the work of Recio and friends.

Alisa Greco March 11, 2012 at 03:48 PM
Lis thank you for taking the time to clean up the trash that you found near your neighborhood. I love how you took the initiative and instead of just walking by, you pitched in and did something about it, way to go! Too often people just walk by. maybe thinking, "It's not mine, so it's not my problem." Trash that litters the landscape, brought there either by high-winds or careless drivers, takes away from the beauty of the two towns that we are so fortunate to live in. I enjoy walking and biking and my kids enjoy playing at all the recreational areas in the the two towns. But seeing trash strewn about is always disappointing. My family and I have collected trash at local elementary schools, athletic fields, playgrounds, and along stretches of Walnut Street. I know that there are other families out there that pitch in when they can. I wonder what would happen if a few people in each neighborhood took a morning, say on Earth Day - April 22nd, and helped pick up what they see. It may cost $1.75 to buy an extra bag to put in what you find (although much of what's out there, paper, cans, bottles, can be recycled), but the appreciation that you'll get from the many walkers, runners, and bikers and everybody else that loves being outside should be worth the money and the effort.
Sue Kassirer March 12, 2012 at 10:58 AM
You guys are terrific. I too collect a lot trash my neighborhood on the other side of town. It's not fun but definitely the right thing to do. This Summer I am going to put some of it to use in my "Art Grows Here" installation, the plastic bottles and bags in any case. Keep up the good work and look for the show in July.
Susanna McLaughlin March 12, 2012 at 02:40 PM
I pick up trash on my road almost every day when walking my dogs. If everyone carried a small bag when walking along roads or trails and picked up a few things it would make a big difference. Every May and Oct., the Chebacco Lake and Watershed Assn. and the Chebacco Woods Management Comm. do clean-ups along a large section of Chebacco Rd. It is amazing to see the amount of debris that is collected.
Robert Gates (Editor) March 13, 2012 at 04:01 AM
Susanna, When you set a day and time for your cleanup events and you are looking to get more people involved, please feel free to announce it on Patch or add it to our events calendar.

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