From cigarettes to insulation, roadway trash overwhelms

From cigarettes to insulation, roadway trash overwhelms

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— Photo by Nate Horwitz

In addition to scenic views of the state forest, travelers driving along west out of Edgartown along Edgartown-West Tisbury Road last weekend were treated to a view of trash. Cigarettes butts, pink insulation, construction debris, bottles, plastic sheets and full bags of household trash spilling out their contents could be easily seen Edgartown-West Tisbury Road.

trash-4.JPGTown and Island officials said it is an ongoing battle to keep the roadway clean. They pointed to the long winter, uncovered truck loads, and everyday littering.

Edgartown residents and builders working in Edgartown must traverse the state road on their way to the Martha’s Vineyard Regional Refuse District headquarters just opposite the entrance to the Martha’s Vineyard Airport.

“It’s been an ongoing issue,” Refuse District manager Don Hatch said. “Part of it is uncovered loads. We say we don’t accept uncovered loads, but if we don’t take them the drivers leave with the load uncovered, so we take the load and notify the drivers.”

“We have assistance from the Dukes County prison to address litter issues on Martha’s Vineyard,” Department of Transportation spokesperson Michael Verseckes said in an email to The Times. “This year, the program resumed for the season this past week. Efforts are typically daily but are subject to weather and inmate availability.

Lt. Colonel Durwood Araujo of the sheriff’s department oversees inmate trash collection operations, one of the main reasons Island roads stay clean most of the year.

“We do a good job of keeping all the Island’s state roads clean,” Lt. Colonel Araujo said in a telephone conversation last Wednesday.

trash-2.JPG“This is our first week back. Weather permitting, we’ll try to get out Monday through Friday.” The two or more inmates who are assigned trash collection have to be class blue, minimum security, or class green, pre-release.

“Usually we get trash along Edgartown-West Tisbury Road, because the dump is there, but we don’t usually get full bags of trash,” he said.

Margaret Serpa, chairman of the Edgartown selectmen, has listened to residents express concerns.

“I’ve noticed the trash myself going back-and-forth along that road,” she said. “But we haven’t even discussed it, and won’t unless somebody brings it to us. It’s a state highway, so I don’t know how to stop it.”


  1. Trash is on many roads. Walk along Meshacket for instance and you’ll see a liquor store’s worth of beer, wine and liquor bottles among other things.

  2. Please tell me the photographer picked up that trash after the pictures were taken.

    1. I picked up several armloads, but it would take a team to get all of it: miles of trash on this road alone.

  3. Never mind mattresses of all sizes, broken TVs’, junk furniture close to certain peoples homes…

  4. I was headed to the transfer station one day a couple of months ago and ended up on WT road behind a pick-up precariously loaded with construction debris and, yes, completely uncovered and unsecured. As it careened down the road, random bits and pieces flew out. Just as it passed Barnes Road the load shifted and a bunch of the stuff fell off and scattered in the middle of the right lane and along the shoulder. This included 2×4’s, large scraps of plywood, shingles etc. Fortunately I was far enough behind that I was had time to navigate around the debris. The truck continued on its way and turned into the transfer station. Then, as I followed, he was waved onto the scale and continued on to dump what was left of the load. When I reported it to the person in the booth, he kind of threw up his hands and told me I should just call the police. Silly me, I thought they might at least let the guy know he had dropped a bunch of stuff in the road and should go back to retrieve it. In the meantime at least two other drivers came along and also reported it and I presume got the same response. I did call the police, but I really doubt they got there in time to have a conversation with the driver. By the time I got back out on the road someone else had very nicely removed the debris.

  5. Half the problem is the trash isn’t picked up in the winter when the vegetation is minimal and it’s still visible. The judges need to assign more community service hours to their sentences.

  6. I live on a small side street in OB, folks use this street to get home at night. In the morning, it is not infrequent to see empty nips and beer bottles littering my street and yard. There are cultures that feel it’s OK to toss their garbage whenever they are done with it…look at the West Indies, crap everywhere. It’s endemic on my street.

  7. When the police start pulling these guys over and issuing tickets maybe they will get the picture. Ive been behind trucks with uncovered loads that drive right by a parked police car and the cops do nothing.

  8. Am I misunderstanding Ms Serpa’s comment? When someone brings the trash situation to her attention her comment is that she’ll deal with it when someone brings it to her attention and she doesn’t know how to deal with it? If the public is confused on who to complain to – a public official should help clarify the situation and work to resolve the issue…. not compound the problem and shrug their shoulders and say ” your guess is as good as mine.”. Who is responsible? A public official should have the answer or at least offer to look into it. If littering is a crime a report of a crime to a town official ( this article implies multiple reports) should be investigated. A public servant has a duty to investigate the complaint. Public… servant. As someone who walks the beaches with a trash bag in hand I am appalled at the “passing of the buck” by town officials and workers.

    1. Unfortunately this is what you get when people are in office for too long and nobody challenges them. They never have to defend what they say, or what they do or more importantly what they don’t do. Edgartown is famous for it.

  9. I do a lot of walking, both summer and winter and I have to say I feel like the problem of litter is indeed getting worse. My kids think I’m nuts because everywhere I go I pick up after others. I have collected everything from nip bottles to a dirty diaper or two and taken them home to dispose of properly. I think there are two issues; Laziness and lack of respect. People, residents and non residents alike, don’t take the extra minute or two to properly dispose of whatever refuse they have. Bottles, cans, trash etc… It doesn’t take much to hold onto your trash for a few minutes longer until you get to the proper disposal area. Business’s also need to make sure their trash cans are properly emptied. Gulls and wind are the enemy of an overstuffed trash can. Take the extra few minutes to make sure the cans aren’t over stuffed. We will all benefit. The other issue is respect. Respecting the beauty of our island. Respecting its beaches, streets and fields. I have seen teens leave pizza boxes and bottles on Aquinnah beach. Yes, I called them out and they picked it up.I have seen Non residents throwing baby wipes out of the car window near Chilmark pizza…yes…I stopped them. Residents/non residents leaving bottles and bags on Jetty’s. It’s a sad state of affairs when people can’t see the overwhelming beauty that MV provides and instead chose to disrespect it by littering. I will continue to clean up after people because I don’t want our beaches and ocean dirtied by littering. I will continue to respect the island and everyone who calls it home by “calling out” those who I see disrespecting it by littering. I know so many others will do the same….but if we ALL do it…we will succeed.

  10. I have the answer. Park a dumpster outside the gate at the Edg. transfer station. Then people that cant afford the tipping fees can dump their stuff in there. Use the CPA fund to pay for it.