By Karen Buck, Project Manager of Trash Free Malden River and President of the Friends of the Malden River
“Welcome to my office”, Karen Buck remarked to the City of Malden Councilors and Officials during a canoe tour. She smiled as she pointed to the multiple full trash bags lining the fence that separates the Malden City Yard from the Malden River.
Ms. Buck was pointing to bags of trash collected by volunteers for the Trash Free Malden River Project, funded by the Massachusetts Environmental Trust (MET). By purchasing these specialty license plates, funding is procured to protect our coasts and waterways through local environmental groups. The Friends of the Malden River thanks the Massachusetts Environmental Trust for their one year grant financial support. The Mystic River Watershed Association provided valuable assistance to this project with ongoing administrative support and volunteers.
The MET grant of $9,805 will continue to support the Friends of the Malden River’s maintenance of the trash boom through June, 2020. The trash boom was donated by the Clean River Project (CRP) of the Merrimack River Valley. Neal Anderson, Malden City Ward 6 Councillor, and myself, Karen Buck, met Rocky Morrison, the founder of CRP, when we picked up the donated boom in Methuen. Morrison offered us a ride on his platoon. Not only did we have a tour of his cleanup sites, we met a woman who happened to be homeless and living on the shores of the Merrimack River. She was grateful not only to Morrison’s shoreline cleanups of homeless camps (funded by MET), but also for his supportive presence on the Merrimack River.
The trash boom was installed on July 7, 2019. The boom spans the Malden River behind the 188-200 Commercial Street Plaza. This is just below huge culverts where the Malden River “daylights” (emerges from the underground storm water system). Most of Malden street stormwater drains empty through these large culverts. Street litter is pushed through the storm water system into the Malden River during every rain event.
The Trash Free Malden River initiative clears the trash boom of trash on a monthly basis and run volunteer Malden River Cleanup events below the trash boom. Volunteers separate and count the collections for data analysis after the monthly cleanups.
The Girl Scouts of Malden visited the Malden River for a Clean Water Badge. The Girl Scout motto: “Many hands make less work” prevailed during our monthly trash sorting adventure. Among the many items, they noted the huge amount of cigarette butts in the assortment. The Girl Scouts provided ideas including ash trays for public picnic tables along the river.
The YMCA leaders pitched in many hands as well! The group helped with the Canoe on the Malden River event on September 28th.
They enjoyed the event so much that they asked to paddle again on the river. On October 5th, not only did they have time to paddle, they collected more trash than what they could count. The outdoor club of Tufts University also participated in the cleanup pulling out heavy items out of the river including four car tires.
Members of the Malden Teen Enrichment Center (MTEC) are both dismayed and challenged by reducing trash in the city of Malden and in the Malden River. Twenty-one Malden High School/MTEC students gathered at a brainstorming session in November to organize actions to both educate the public and to reduce the amount of Malden’s street litter that flows through the street stormwater drains directly into the Malden River.
So, let’s do the math! The Trash Free Malden River recruited 74 volunteers who donated 316 hours! We collected 1,120 single use plastic bottles, 976 alcoholic “nips”, 57 pounds of dry polystrene (Styrofoam), and 300 pounds of miscellaneous trash out of the Malden River.
Some of this trash would have flowed down the Malden River into the Mystic River and may have continued into the Boston Harbor. Some of this trash would have been caught by the vegetation along the shoreline, disrupting the balance of nature. Without any cleanups, all of the plastic trash would have degraded into microplastics in the water, ruining our ecosystem and poisoning our environment. Microplastics harbor toxins and harmful bacteria.
What can we do to keep and protect our environment, especially our marine environment? We can and we need to create change in our daily lives and habits.
- Refuse plastics and polystyrene (Styrofoam). Easy first steps include bringing your own reusable shopping bags. Nylon bags fit easily in your life. Usually, a local butcher will wrap meat or fish in wax coated paper and a plastic bag. But, that plastic bag can be used for containing trash properly disposed. Ask for paper containers for left-overs from restaurants. You can bring your own take home containers.
- Reduce your waste by changing your habits. There are simple ways and more extensive efforts to create change. Use reusable containers for hot drinks. Use reusable bags for shopping vegetables and fruits. Every reduction makes a difference.
- Reuse your “disposables”. Be creative, save money and protect the environment!Purchase second hand items. Share decorations and tools with your neighbors. Bring your own utensils and cups to work for meals.
- Recycle and compost properly. Review your city recycling policies. Plastic bags and polystrene (#6 Styrofoam) are not accepted in curbside recycling pickups. Clean white foam can be deposited inside the Save Your Stuff trailer at the City Yard. There are commercial composting companies that service Malden: Bootstrap Compost and Black Earth Compost
- Keep your yard and local street storm water drain clean of all debris, especially trash. Leaves and dirt are also important to remove from the street storm water drains. These clog the drains and impede drainage. They also contain phosphates from inorganic fertilizers and poisons. Avoiding use of inorganic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides also protect our environment from toxins. These toxins are flushed into our waterways via street storm water drains.
Have fun role-modeling. I have been working with youth for years with Efforts in Going Green. To be a good EGG, is rewarding. As Kermit the Frog sings: “When green is all there is to be; It could make you wonder why; But why wonder; why wonder; I’m Green it will do fine; It’s beautiful. And I think it is what I want to be”.