There is no ‘Away’ for Roadside Trash! What Can Individuals and Organizations Do about the Litter Problem?

Whether or not you attended the recent Summit on Litter held in Sandwich November 3rd, if you’re concerned about litter, here are some ideas that you may want to think about implementing.

Partner with MassDOT

Recognize that the MassDOT has many tasks on their plate and is under-staffed but ask what they’re doing about litter and how you can help.

  • Contact officials in District 5 and ask how to help

Mary-Joe Perry, District Highway Director

1000 County Street, Taunton, MA 02780

  Phone (857) 368-5000       Fax (508) 880-6102

  • Consider signing up for their Adopt-A-Highway program if you have the volunteers and commitment to handle cleanups regularly
  • Write a letter to a group whose name you see on the Adopt-A-Highway program either praising them for their good work or asking when they are going to do the cleanup.
  • Contact Jamey Tesler, Secretary of MassDOT and Chair of the Board of Directors of MassDOT, 10 Park Plaza, Boston, MA 02116 (857) 368-4636

Contact your Local and State Elected Officials

  • Express how important the issue is to you. 
  • Request a meeting and have the meeting, whether in person or via Zoom
  • Testify or write letters at public hearings.
  • Ask your Senator and Representatives to push for more funding for MassDOT, earmarked for additional clean up staff, equipment, and education. 

Report Litter on the Roadways

  • If you see litter coming out of a vehicle on a State Highway, call 911 with the following information:
    • license plate number; state of issuance
    • make of vehicle (model not necessary)
    • color if it’s distinguishable
    • If you are willing to report this information, you must also be willing to be a witness and testify if the State Police are able to catch the litterer.
  • On Town Roads, call your local police department and your Town Manager. 
    • Offer to help the town create messages regarding truck fly-out litter
    • Better yet, use existing promotional materials from the TakeCareCapeCod website to get the message across in your town.
    • Offer to talk about litter in schools and at organizational events.

Consider a Ban

Research whether a product or item ban would work for your community. With respect to nips, here’s how Falmouth proceeded:

  • Assemble a small team. Include at least one member knowledgeable in town government processes 
  • Develop a plan and playbook; count on 12-18 months
  • Seek public awareness, not stealth
  • Quantify the problem – numbers make an impression – 5,422 nips, 32% of the volume collected, etc.
  • Learn from other communities’ experiences – Chelsea, ABC, Mashpee
  • Listen to a spectrum of players, potential allies – village associations, students – as well as potential antagonists – liquor store owners
  • Engage social media and weekly newspaper
  • Seek out and make presentations – Select Board, public forums – all will generate newspaper articles
  • Seek out influencers – particularly respected and well-spoken Town Meeting members

Regional Ideas

The Cape Cod Commission has studied regionalization of many services, including waste management and diversion. Read what Tetra Tech, the consultants, had to say.


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