Trash Free Malden River Counts!

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.

City officials, Mystic River Watershed Association, Malden River Works, and Metropolitan Area Planning Council members meet at Buck’s office (a.k.a. the City Yard) before a canoe tour

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.

Caricature of Rocky Morrison, founder of Clean River Project

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.

July 7, 2019: Photo of the newly installed trash boom. Look up the Malden River to see the large culverts. Most of Malden’s street stormwater drains flow into the Malden River through these culverts bringing street litter into the 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.

July 12, 2019: the newly installed trash boom did its job blocking trash from flowing down the river after a rain storm.
Malden Girls Scouts pitch in with
helpful hands

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.

Members of Malden Teen Enrichment Center Summer program.

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.

Meet Trash Free Malden River’s Pow, guardian of the trash boom.
Pow will not accept the street litter that pollutes 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.
  • 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”.

The Massachusetts Environmental Trust awards Trash Free Malden River grant to the Friends

The Friends of the Malden River (FoMR) received a financial boost with a $9,805 grant from the Massachusetts Environmental Trust (MET/the Trust). This funding and in-kind services ($6,850) from Gentle Giant Rowing Club, PaddleBoston, Preotle, Lane and Associates, the National Park Service, Mystic River Watershed Association, and FoMR volunteers will help create a Trash Free Malden River.  FoMR also received a critical donation from the Clean River Project (Located on the Merrimack River in Methuen) of a trash boom that will help to restrain the trash from flowing from the municipal storm water systems into the Malden River and eventually into the Mystic River.  

Trash Boom donated to the FoMR from the Clean River Project of the Merrimack River in Methuen. Photo by Karen Buck July 11, 2019

According to Trust Program Director, Kim Tilas, the Trust will provide $471,512.00 in grants to 18 organizations, thanks to motorists who choose to purchase one of the Trust’s specialty license plates. “Trust plates, including our signature Whale Plate, are the only specialty plates that exclusively fund environmental initiatives,” said Tilas.”When you purchase a specialty plate for $100.00 from the Registry of Motor Vehicles, the $40 specialty plate fee goes directly to the Trust to fund water-focused environmental programs.” 

“Funding from the Massachusetts Environmental Trust will enable us to create a trash free Malden River for the public and for our environment”, says Karen Buck of FoMR.  “Collaboration and educational modalities with the Cities of Malden, Everett, Medford, and Melrose, the Malden riverfront landowners, and the public is essential to reduce the amount of trash that flows into the Malden River. The benefits of trash reduction and retention will be evident and long lasting.” 

This trash flowed through our storm water system from the streets of Malden during the rainfall of July 12, 2019. Accumulation of rainfall was .64 inches – just over 1/2 inch.
Photo by Karen Buck

Supporting the environmental programs funded by the Trust in your community is easy: choose one of three environmental plates, the Right Whale & Roseate Terns, The Leaping Brook Trout, or the Blackstone Valley Mill when you purchase or lease a new car or renew your registration with the Registry of Motor Vehicles.  Recently, Governor Baker announced a new plate, commemorating our Striped Bass (who follow the migration of our massively increased herring population up our rivers, thanks to the fish ladders installed on some of our dams).  

These license plates beat any bumper sticker!  Wear your plate proud and offset your automobile’s carbon output at the same time!  

The standard registration fee for a Massachusetts plate is $60.00. The special plate fee is an additional $40.00 (tax deductible every two years) for a total cost of $100. Every time you automatically renew your registration, the $40.00 goes to the Trust. 

Visit your local Registry of Motor Vehicles to order a plate online at or You can also visit us at to learn more about the Trust, the programs it supports, and the specialty license plate offerings.