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Diapers, Dead Deer and a Thong: Green Up Day Haul in Vt. Runs the Gamut

  • Eric Boen and his children Mada Boen, 10, left, and Merrick Boen, 9, sort the trash they found along their road in Sharon, Vt., on May 6, 2017. Helping them is River Sotak,6, who was with his father at the Sharon Town Garage that day. They were helping in the sorting of trash brought in from Green-up Day. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Sheila Armen, of Quechee, Vt., climbs up a steep bank after picking up trash in Quechee on Green-up Day on May 6, 2017. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Green-up Day volunteer Karen Douville presents a rod to volunteer Bruce Riddle at the Hartford Town Hall on May 6, 2017. Mary Gentry, of Hartford, Vt., left, had found it and the other trash that she was taking out of her car to be disposed of. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • On Green-Up Day at the Sharon Town Garage, Sue Sellew sorts trash that had been picked up along the road and dropped off at the garage on May 6, 2017 in Sharon, Vt. Volunteers sort the trash that comes in for redeemable bottles and cans. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • With rain coming down, Peter Lowes, the Green-up coordinator in Sharon, Vt., carries a bag of aluminum cans to his truck at the Sharon Town Garage on May 6, 2017. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Sunday, May 07, 2017

Vermonters got down and dirty on Saturday as part of Green Up Day, when volunteers across the state pitch in to remove litter from roadsides, public parks and illegal dumping sites.

Now in its 47th year, Green Up Day is organized by the environmental nonprofit Green Up Vermont. Last year, approximately 22,000 volunteers removed 300 tons of trash and more than 5,000 tires from public spaces, according to a Green Up news release.

“Litter is something we deliberately don’t see, simply because it’s so ugly,” said Amber Erkiletian, a Green Up volunteer in Pomfret. “But loving the trees and the wildlife, and doing something to help keep it beautiful and healthy, really is an extraordinary part of our Vermont heritage.”

Prior to this year’s event, the Vermont State Police and Department of Public Safety issued a warning to volunteers about finding dangerous materials, including used needles and refuse from methamphetamine labs.

The warning instructed volunteers not to remove these items, and instead to report them to their Green Up Day leader, who would then notify authorities. Volunteers interviewed said they did not find any syringes or meth pots on Saturday.

Found items did, however, include dirty diapers, a red lace thong and the remains of several decapitated deer.

“The carcasses will decompose on their own,” said Dana Hazen of Hartford, who spotted the remains near the train tracks on VA Cutoff Road. “The cigarette butts, not so much.”

Hazen, along with Bruce Riddle of Hartford, said they’d filled between six and eight trash bags in an hour and a half, all from the same stretch of road.

Cigarette butts and boxes represented a sizeable portion of the collected waste, along with cans and bottles, volunteers said. Though volunteers in larger towns like Hartford disposed of these items along with the regular trash they’d found, volunteers in several towns sorted through garbage bags to round up recyclable items.

In Sharon, for example, Peter Lowes and a team of volunteers set up shop in the old salt shed at the town garage. Last year, Lowes said, he redeemed about $67 of recyclables, which — if each item is worth between 5 and 15 cents — amounts to approximately 1,000 items.

This year, he estimated that Sharon volunteers had amassed at least 600 pounds in crushed glass alone, and at least 50 bags of litter.

Recycling also took place in Pomfret, where volunteer Gaal Crowl said police will be cracking down on illegal waste disposal by patrolling at irregular hours and installing cameras at several illegal dumping sites. Crowl and others cleaned up one of these illegal dumping sites, on Bunker Hill Road, which yielded a truckload of scrap metal and 36 tires.

“As we were cleaning it all up, I kept thinking, ‘You pigs! You swine!’ It makes me very angry,” she said.

But Erkiletian, also of Pomfret, said she tries to understand why people would litter in the first place.

“I think we often don’t think about it properly. Maybe people throw things out of their cars thinking that if they have clean cars, they’re clean people. But it just means that the land is dirty now,” she said.

Crowl said she believes that many litterers are “lost causes” at this point in their lives.

“The only antidote to the syndrome,” she said, “is to teach kids not to litter.” In her car, she’d assembled themed goodie bags to reward children who participated in cleanup efforts.

And, though some of the items that surfaced on Saturday could be considered adult in nature, Green Up Day did include a healthy mix of child volunteers. In Norwich, a group of Boy Scouts from Troop 45 gathered at the Ledyard Bridge to fill trash bags from Wheelock Street down to Rip Road.

“It’s nice to go on a hike and be able to see animals and birds,” said Boy Scout Jack Starkey, 12, of Hanover. “And if there’s too much trash around, the animals can get sick, and even die, probably.”

River Sotak, 6, of Sharon, echoed this sentiment.

“Green Up is important because there needs to be less gross stuff in the world, and also recycling is fun,” he said, before running up a steep embankment to grab a large redeemable can.

EmmaJean Holley can be reached at eholley@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.