Burrillville’s DIY Earth Day cleanup runs through April 30, one of two in 2022

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BURRILLVILLE – Sign ups are now underway for a town-wide clean up to be held this month in honor of Earth Day, and in 2022, it’s just one of two events that aim to keep Burrillville beautiful.

The call for volunteers begins this week, with litter pickup to run through Sunday, April 30 in Burrillville’s do-it-yourself Earth Day event.

It’s a new routine developed amid last year’s pandemic restrictions to replace what was once a single day cleanup in town.

Burrillville’s Earth Day, started decades ago thanks to a collaboration between the Burrillville Lions Club and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, has traditionally consisted of a kickoff, before hundreds of volunteers blanket the town on a trash collection mission.

It has evolved to include participation of the town itself, the Burrillville Conservation Commission, Keep Blackstone Valley Beautiful – and the Lions Club still plays a crucial role. Previous years saw up to 300 volunteers take part in an organized effort to remove hundreds of bags of litter from town streets, with 4.17 tons of trash removed in a single day in both 2018 and 2019.

In 2020, planning was underway in Burrillville for a grand celebration in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of global Earth Day before concerns over COVID-19 brought such events to a halt. The event was cancelled that year for the first time since its inception in town, and in 2021, a modified celebration saw residents pick up cleanup supplies – and then litter – on their own schedules in April.

While the new method may lack some of the community spirit from past celebrations, Trash and Recycling Coordinator Andrea Hall notes that the gradual litter pickup is easier for both town officials and participants. Passing out supplies as requested allows Hall to prepare if more are needed, and to run the cleanup as part of her regular work day. Public Works Department staff will collect the gathered trash during the week in place of the all-hands-on-deck approach that saw many labor on a Saturday. And residents can collect litter at their convenience, contributing to the larger effort throughout the month.

A second event in 2022 will also help to keep town streets clear throughout the year. Burrillville Parks & Recreation is teaming up with Keep Blackstone Valley Beautiful to participate in the 50th anniversary of ZAP the Blackstone, a regional event that aims to register 10,000 participants, gathering litter across the Blackstone Valley Watershed.

That event, which officially takes place on Saturday, August 27, marks 50 years since the original ZAP in 1972, when 10,000 volunteers collected trash along the Blackstone River.

In Burrillville, the cleanup will be run the same way as this year’s Earth Day, with trash collected over a two-week period leading up to the main event. Rhode Island Resource Recovery has extended the period during which the town’s tipping fees will be waived at the landfill for both events – and those in Burrillville who hope to participate in either are asked to contact Hall.

Saturday, April 23 is the official date of Burrillville Earth Day, and Hall has already begun arranging pickup of supplies with groups of volunteers, including bags, gloves, t-shirts and more. Once contacted, the trash and recycling coordinator assigns an area in town for trash pickup, and when volunteers complete their area, they will call to say where they’ve left the full bags.

“If you can provide a pole number and address they are near, that is helpful,” notes a flyer she has started handing out to participants.

Groups are also instructed to contact Hall if they need more supplies, and to post photos of their work on social media with the hashtag #BurrillvilleEarthDay, tagging the Burrillville Parks & Recreation Facebook page. All participants will be entered in a raffle for a chance to win prizes including gift baskets and more. Certificates for community service hours will be available upon request.

As usual, the town’s celebration of Earth Day also includes a poster contest for Burrillville students in grades K through 5, with the winners to be featured in a 2023 environmental education calendar. Students have been asked to submit their entry by Saturday, April 29, and the 12 winners chosen will also receive cash prizes.

It will all contribute to the ongoing effort to draw attention to environmental issues in Burrillville, and to keep the town’s roadway clean of litter.

To sign up and do your part with Earth Day and ZAP 50, contact Hall at ahall@burrillville.org or by calling (401) 710-4214.

Editor’s note: Publisher and writer Sandy Seoane is the co-chairperson of Burrillville’s 2022 Earth Day as part of her participation with the Burrillville Lions Club.

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