Island exterminator takes on litterbugs

Dismayed by debris despoiling Vineyard vistas, Tim Hanjian takes a stand.

From left, Matt Stamas, Betsy Donnelly, Tim Hanjian, Veronika Buckley, and 2-year-old Hannah Buckley helped clean trash from Eastville Beach in Oak Bluffs on New Year's Day. — Photo by Michael Cummo

In his line of work, Tim Hanjian of Oak Bluffs, owner of Eco-Island Pest Control, is used to dealing with destructive foes from the insect world. But it was the human litterbugs, and the unsightly messes they left behind, that were the focus of Mr. Hanjian’s efforts on a recent frigid Saturday morning at Eastville Beach. It was the third cleanup effort of Clean MV, a grassroots movement in its infancy, started by Mr. Hanjian and friend Matt Stamas. That day they were joined by three people, Betsy Donnelly, Veronika Buckley, and 2-year-old Hannah Buckley, more than doubling ranks of the two previous Clean MV gatherings, where Mr. Hanjian and Mr. Stamas tackled beach trash on their own.

“Matt and I had been talking about the problem for a while, and we decided to pick a spot and spend an hour picking up garbage,” Mr Hanjian told The Times. For the first two Clean MV efforts, Mr. Stamas chose Medeiros Cove on Lagoon Pond, a place where he spent many hours as a child. “I found half a jug of antifreeze with cap off,” he said. “We easily found 100 cans and bottles. The nip bottles are everywhere. If I could cash all of them in, I could own half of the Island.” Mr. Hanjian said one of the more disconcerting finds was five paint cans, all with paint in them. “They were dumped about 15 feet from a trash can,” he said. “When it rains, all those chemicals run into the pond. We all go to the Net Result to get the scallops that come out of there. Basically we’re poisoning ourselves.”

“All those chemicals going into the water is more of a concern than people realize,” Mr. Stamas said. “This Island is known for its natural beauty, and throwing away trash like that is very disrespectful of the community.”

Mr. Hanjian said Clean MV only asks that people donate an hour of time to picking up litter. “Nobody wants to spend a whole day picking up trash,” he said. “We do whatever we can do in an hour, that’s it. I want it to be as stress-free as possible. If somebody can help for 10 minutes, that’s great. We’ll take it. This is more about building awareness of the problem.”

Mr. Hanjian posts upcoming Clean MV events on a number of Islander Facebook pages, including Islanders Talk, Island Pickers, and Green MV.  He also posts on the Martha’s Vineyard Minutemen page, because more and more, hunters are coming across trash piles in the most secluded areas of the Island. “These aren’t tourists doing this,” he said. “Islanders are the biggest offenders.”

At the conclusion of the Eastville beach cleanup, the five volunteers had filled two large trash bags. “We found the usual assortment of bottles and cans,” Mr. Hanjian said. “This time we also found clothes, that was a first. We also found medical waste bags that had been torn open.”

Mr. Hanjian said Clean MV is just one Island group that’s taking on trash. “I’m just another guy trying to help,” he said. “I don’t want to be seen as the guy trying to lead the way. My family is big into service. My dad, Armen Hanjian, has run the Island Food Pantry for the past 17 years.”

Mr. Hanjian believes a key to turning the rising tide of litter is more trash cans on the Island. “There’s not enough garbage receptacles, period,” he said. “We can pay for it now or pay for it later. One way or another we’re going to pay for it.”

The next Clean MV beach cleanup will be at Eastville Beach, this Saturday morning from 11 am to noon.