The Falmouth Beach Committee met with representatives from the solid waste advisory committee and Litter Free Falmouth on Wednesday, February 17, to consider ways to reduce littering at the beaches, beach parking lots and nearby roads.
“I know personally I go to the beach every day and I pick up trash every single day,” beach committee chairman Paul Miskovsky said. “I think for some people it’s their God-given right to throw something on the ground and not give a damn about it, and it seems there is not anything we can do about it aside from pick up about that.”
While most people are respectful of Falmouth’s beaches, Mr. Miskovsky said, littering is a problem.
“It is not particularly within a generation,” he said. “I think the younger kids are probably worse than summerers, and then there are some smokers who are just out of control. It’s like the beaches are their ashtray.”
Committee member Joseph A. Strazzulla said people need a place to dispose of their trash. While there are trash receptacles at the beaches, these can fill up quickly.
“I think our containers are too complex and too small,” Mr. Strazzulla said. “They can’t hold a whole day’s worth of refuse on a busy Saturday.”
Mr. Miskovsky said the bins are often used for more than just beach trash.
“Another thing that goes on every single day, especially in season, is half the trash in those waste barrels is trash coming from people’s houses,” he said. “They bring their household trash and they fill up our trash containers. I’ve seen it happen.”
If an alternative location is provided, people could bring their household trash there instead. Select board member Douglas C. Brown suggested opening the Waste Management Facility on Sundays and Mondays. Mr. Miskovsky was not convinced this would make a difference, as the people dumping their trash at the beach are going to the beach anyways.
“They’re not going to go to the dump,” he said.
Noting the Waste Management Facility is out of the way for a lot of people, committee member Margaret Mitchell suggested the town install a community dumpster elsewhere.
Noting a similar problem at the West Falmouth dock, Committee member Daniel H. Shearer suggested signage.
“Maybe we need a sign on all these, saying household trash will be looked at and you may be billed for household trash, a nice polite sign in the area,” Mr. Shearer said. “Personally, I think our signage at all our beaches is terrible because we don’t say ‘It’s your beach, please take care of it.’”
He said a polite sign offering a gentle reminder to keep the beaches clean could encourage people to think positively about the beaches and discourage littering.
Mr. Strazzulla said he deals with the disposal of household trash at his commercial properties. The only way to deal with it is to provide a place for it.
“The only practical solution is to provide space above and beyond what people need to use each day,” he said. “If it is West Falmouth dock and one barrel is full, then put two barrels, because our goal is to get the trash from wherever it is into a waste system that is going to dispose of it properly.”
Solid waste advisory committee chairman Alan Robinson asked if lifeguards or parking lot attendants provide beachgoers with information about littering. Mr. Miskovsky said this falls outside their duties.
“Our lifeguards are lifeguards, they’re not trash police, and the people that are managing the parking lots are getting their asses chewed all day long because there is not enough parking or there is no place to circle,” he said.
“We can’t have our teenage lifeguards telling people to pick up their beer bottles, or whatever,” Mr. Miskovsky said. “Despite the fact that people aren’t supposed to be drinking on the beach, it goes on.”
He said it would be helpful is a volunteer organization stepped in to take ownership of littering at the beaches. Mr. Robinson said this could be done via an Adopt-A-Beach program, similar to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s Adopt-A-Highway program.
Noting Litter Free Falmouth’s fall cleanup, Margaret E. Sabens said more than 150 people signed up to pick up trash around town in December.
“They are people who pick up litter, just like I do,” Ms. Sabens said. “I pick up litter at least every two weeks, year-round, and we found people that do the same thing. It was so exciting to find all these people. It wouldn’t be that hard for us to pull together Adopt-A-Beach. We could do that.”
Mr. Miskovsky said he supported the idea, and suggested Litter Free Falmouth draft a pilot schedule to see if an Adopt-A-Beach program could work.
“I think, along with the beach committee, it has to be supported also by the highway department,” he said. “We are partners with them in this beach venture. We all have to be on the same team and on the same page.”
Mr. Robinson offered additional suggestions for managing litter at Falmouth’s beaches, including signage. He said the existing trash receptacles are large enough to include messaging upon them, similar to the messages featured on the Falmouth Water Steward’s water refill stations.
“Those panels on the trash barrels, we can message on those,” he said. “We can even have community art, high school kid’s art or adult’s art on those, to make them attractive and draw people’s attention to them.”
He also recommended providing anti-littering information to people when they purchase beach stickers, whether those stickers are purchased in person or mailed.
This dovetailed into a conversation about flyer distribution at beach parking lots accessed by day trippers. Ms. Mitchell presented a draft flyer, which reminds beachgoers to follow the beach rules. The card details what isn’t allowed at the beach, including smoking, alcohol, littering, feeding the wildlife, throwing rocks and loud music. The card also notes non-service animals are not allowed at beach, including in parked cars, from May 1 to October 1.
If the committee can make the flyer fit on a five by seven inch card, it can be mailed out with parking stickers.