BURRILLVILLE – The long-standing tradition of cleaning up town roadways in honor of Earth Day will go on in 2021, with a few changes aimed at limiting crowds.
The popular event, first started in Burrillville in the late 1990s, was cancelled for the first time in 2020 over fears of the COVID-19 pandemic. Previous years saw up to 300 volunteers take part in an organized effort to remove hundreds of bags of litter from town streets.
Burrillville’s 2020 event was initially scheduled to be even more elaborate, in celebration of 50th anniversary of the very first Earth Day held in Wisconsin. Organizations including the Burrillville Lions Club, the Burrillville Land Trust, the Department of Public Works, the Burrillville Conservation Commission, Waste Management, the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council, Keep Blackstone Valley Beautiful and Dunkin Donuts in Pascoag were collaborating to plan additional festivities, such as the burying of a time capsule on the grounds of the Assembly Theatre.
NRI NOW offered to sponsor a contest, asking readers to submit photos of their favorite place in town, with the most popular to be included in the time capsule. Dozens of readers submitted photos, which were published on this website, and have been stored for potential inclusion once the event is finally rescheduled.
While the time capsule initiative continues to be on hold due to limitations on crowd sizes, other aspects of Burrillville’s Earth Day will resume this month. The traditional kick-off event at the Public Works garage, where volunteers normally pick up supplies and t-shirts, also won’t take place in 2021.
But the town’s DPW will still take part, providing materials such as gloves and bags for those collecting litter, and picking up those bags once they’re filled. Trash & Recycling Coordinator Andrea Hall said that 52 people have already signed up for the, “DIY,” cleanup.
“I love this event every year,”said Hall. “It’s one of my favorite events, because so many people come out to help.”
Burrillville’s official Earth Day is Saturday, April 24, but the cleaning, it seems, has already begun. Hall is providing supplies and t-shirts to all who register, and Rhode Island Resource Recovery has extended the period during which tipping fees will be waived at the landfill to encourage towns to participate.
“Once people pick up supplies, they’re free to start cleaning whenever,” Hall said.
The month-long event, Hall said, will serve as a boost to efforts by some who have worked throughout the pandemic to get litter off town roadways.
“I have residents who have been doing this all year long during the pandemic,” she said. “It’s been really amazing.”
Hall noted that one woman alone recently picked up more than 30 bags of trash, and her posts on social media inspired others to pitch in.
But while the pandemic has motivated some to step up their efforts to Keep Burrillville Beautiful, other changes Hall has observed this year have not been as positive.
The types of litter, she said, are different, with full-sized liquor bottles replacing the small “nips,” commonly found on town streets, and pandemic-related items like face masks now in abundance.
“What’s on the side of the road has changed,” said Hall. “People, unfortunately, seem to be drinking more, and littering more.”
Still, the trash and recycling coordinator said she’s excited to see more and more people helping to clean up. All trash collected by those who register with her to be Earth Day volunteers will then be gathered by DPW staff for proper disposal.
Community service certificates will also be available as needed for those who participate, and all who register will be entered in a raffle for gift certificates and other Earth Day swag, with winners to be drawn on Monday, May 3.
To take part in the effort, residents should contact Hall at firstname.lastname@example.org or (401) 710-4214, and let her know where they plan to collect trash. She’ll set up an appointment to provide supplies, and work can be done anytime through Friday, April 30.