Pandemic impacting trash accumulation, cleanup efforts on Charles River

Pandemic impacting trash accumulation, cleanup efforts on Charles River

BOSTON — The pandemic is having a direct impact on trash accumulation and cleanup efforts along the Charles River in 2020.

Michael Nichols, Executive Director of the Esplanade Association, told Boston 25 News that the COVID-19 crisis hit in the U.S. right before the volunteer programming season began.

Typically, about 2,000 volunteers help to clean up the Charles River Esplanade every year from the spring through the fall.

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However, due to health concerns and restrictions, those volunteers efforts have been virtually non-existent this year.

That includes the cancellation of the Annual Charles River Cleanup, one of the largest river cleanups in the country.

“Having 2,000 volunteers is the equivalent of two full time staff working in the park for an entire year,” said Nichols. “If there’s a consistent lack of cleanup efforts, it’s clear how it could backslide with all the progress we’ve made in cleaning up over the years.”

Compounding the problem, Nichols said the State Department of Conservation and Recreation removed the trash cans that line the Esplanade in March. That move was made because of concerns over people touching them.

On top of that, estimated usership on the Esplanade has increased by 48 percent over last year.

“I pick up trash when I go by and put it in available trash cans. If there aren’t any trash cans, there’s not much you can do,” said Charles Schurehoff, who visits the Esplanade regularly. “You would think people would take their trash with them, but it’s not the case.”

The long term environmental consequences of this year’s litter likely won’t be seen until 2021 when the water quality report card is released.

In the meantime, visitors are seeing one shred of silver lining – a resurgence of wildlife along the Esplanade.

“We are seeing animals that we haven’t seen before,” explained Nichols. “A recent phenomenon, there’s been about 12 to 15 large mature swans that have found their way into the Esplanade lagoons.”

Nichols suspects the new signs of wildlife in the area are a direct result of large scale events not happening in 2020, including the Fourth of July festivities.

He hopes people will recognize the Esplanade as a shared asset and clean up after themselves when visiting.

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