High School Students Put Litter in Its Place
A recent article written by Will Sennott, published by the Vineyard Gazette:
Some high school students spend their Sundays catching up on rest or cramming in some last minute studying before the school
begins. But the dozens of students involved in what they are calling the Island Cleanup Project spend their Sundays picking up trash.
Members of the project, a student-led initiative to eliminate litter on Martha’s Vineyard, have combed the streets and beaches of the Island just about every Sunday since October. Each week they measure their success in weight, running a cumulative total of 480 pounds of garbage collected over the last three months.
Max Potter and Willa Welch, juniors at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, decided to launch the project the weekend after Halloween this year. They said they happened to be on a walk through downtown Vineyard Haven and saw the candy wrapper aftermath still lingering in the street.
“We contacted the Tisbury town hall and they said they didn’t have a plan to take care of it,” Willa said. “So we kind of just decided to take care of it ourselves.”
Student group picks a new place to clean each Sunday. — Jeanna Shepard
“Forty minutes later our bag was ripping at the seams,” Max said. “When we were done, we thought, why don’t we do this every week?”
Through word of mouth and a social media campaign, the two have been able to recruit about 20 other students at the high school. So far they have led efforts to clean the forest behind the high school, the East and West Chop beaches, Lighthouse Beach in Edgartown and Veterans Memorial Park in Vineyard Haven, to name a few.
This past Sunday, about 15 students involved in the project decided to clean the beach and parking lot around the Steamship Authority Vineyard Haven pier. The group is always looking for recommendations of where to clean next, Willa said. They chose this spot at the request of her mother, who saw a Facebook post of all the trash in the bushes around the loading queue.
Beginning at the gazebo next to the Black Dog, the group sprang into action.
The idea began after Halloween, when Willa Welch and Max Potter noticed the streets still filled with candy wrappers the next day. — Jeanna Shepard
“I see trash already,” said Max’s younger brother Zak as he stepped onto the beach.
Shoulder to shoulder, the group combed the beach from the water line to the dune grass, spilling into the thorny thickets that separate the ferry loading queue from the beach. After a solid sweep, the group crossed the terminal parking lot to a portion of beach behind the bus station.
Whenever one of the students stumbled upon an especially dense pile of trash, they shouted, “Jackpot, baby!”
After just one hour the group had filled three bloated trash bags.
“I say it every time, but it’s always amazing how much you find,” Willa said. “Everything from shoes, dirty diapers and scattered Styrofoam . . . but today it was mostly cigarette butts, plastic bottles and little pieces of wrapping.”
“But, luckily, we actually haven’t seen many plastic bags,” Max said, referencing a recent local initiative to ban single-use plastic bags. “It goes to show that policies people put in place actually make a real difference.”
The students loaded the bags into the back of John Potter’s truck (father of Max and Zak) before heading to the Edgartown transfer station, which allows the group to dispose of the collected waste for free.
“It’s pretty amazing what these guys have done,” said Mr. Potter, who was also involved in the cleanup effort. “We all get to come out every Sunday and make a positive impact on the Island.”