Coalition to tackle trash at beaches

Jun 28, 2020

As crowds of people have returned to Wareham and Onset’s beaches, they have brought with them another familiar summer sight: piles of trash.

This year, officials, volunteers, and business owners are banding together to combat the problem of litter and dumping through education and enforcement. 

On Saturday, Kat Jones of the Onset Bay Association set up a tent with other volunteers to educate beachgoers about the town’s carry in, carry out policy. Those visiting the town’s beaches, conservation lands, and parks are expected to bring whatever they brought with them back home at the end of the day.

There are several garbage cans located at high-traffic areas, which are emptied several times a day by municipal maintenance. 

Jones said that the garbage issue, which is a perennial problem, has been aggravated this year by larger-than-usual crowds and more take-out containers due to the pandemic. Both Jones and Harbormaster Garry Buckminster said that crowds last Saturday were mid-July size -- far bigger than anyone expected. 

But this week’s efforts left the beach clean at the end of the day. 

“This is just the beginning of educating people,” Jones said. “We don’t have events this year, so let’s refocus, educate the public, and hopefully make a difference there.”
Jones and Buckminster met Saturday with members of the Board of Selectmen, the police department, business owners, concerned citizens,the Onset Bay Association, and Don’t Trash Wareham to brainstorm ways to combat the trash issue at the beaches and other properties across town. Town Administrator Derek Sullivan is also working on a new plan to fight litter.

Education is key, the group agreed, and the Onset Bay Association has agreed to set up the educational tent each weekend to inform beachgoers and hand out trash bags. 

Additionally, the group wants to encourage business owners to help educate visitors about the carry in, carry out policy. Beautification is another goal, as people are less likely to litter in areas that are well-kept.

Buckminster said that most of the trash comes from visitors, and some of the most problematic waste is large items like umbrellas and towels that should not be the town’s responsibility. 

Items like pizza boxes are also problematic. People don’t tend to break the boxes down, so they don’t fit in the Big Belly trash compactor. People then leave the box sticking out of the compactor’s drawer, leading other people to think the barrel is full and to begin to leave garbage next to the barrel. 

The top of the stairways down to the beach are also a hot spot for dumped waste.

“We want to educate people, talk to them, ask for help,” Buckminster said. But Buckminster said that citations and tickets aren’t off the table, and that littering beachgoers could pay a high price if caught littering.

“We want a clean beach for the majority of people who actually respect it,” Buckminster said. 

Buckminster said that many volunteers have been helping out. One woman has “adopted” the bandshell,. and visits it each morning to pick up the odds and ends left behind. Others will pick up and bag trash before leaving the bag somewhere for the town to pick up and dispose of. 

Buckminster also noted that the trash problems the town has had with the carry in, carry out policy are much less than when the town had more barrels or dumpsters.