Keep Fitchburg Beautiful Holds Weekly Cleanups


Photo courtesy of the Keep Fitchburg Beautiful Facebook page.

-Brittany Eldridge

When Fitchburg State students consider their daily activities from making meals, to cleaning up their dorm rooms, to shopping at local convenience stores, they most likely do not consider the amount of waste produced by these activities. According to the National Wildlife Federation, the average college student produces 640 pounds of trash each year. 

This is especially true during the pandemic because now there is additional personal protection equipment, or PPE, being thrown out and littered. A volunteer-run organization called Keep Fitchburg Beautiful is working to “beautify public spaces” as stated on the organization’s website. Keep Fitchburg Beautiful volunteers are organizing city-wide cleanups and encouraging others to start their own in order to reduce waste in Fitchburg.

Sam Squailia, Fitchburg City Councilor-at-Large, started Keep Fitchburg Beautiful after being inspired by a Keep Massachusetts Beautiful table at a trade show in 2020. She had been picking up trash for a number of years. Squailia said that they had not been able to organize cleanups as they wanted because of the pandemic, but they have still managed to organize groups of 20-30 socially distanced people, especially in 2021.  

She has noticed a lot of gloves and masks littered as a result of the pandemic. Some ways in which Squailia has been working to improve the project include reaching out to local companies that produce a lot of waste and starting the 5K Challenge. The 5K Challenge involves picking up 5,000 pieces of trash and the amount of trash collected is documented on the Literati App. This app helps users track of litter collected by taking pictures of the litter.

Joseph Bowen, a graduate student at Fitchburg State majoring in Business Administration, works with Keep Fitchburg Beautiful. He said that Keep Fitchburg beautiful is one of the chapters of Keep Massachusetts Beautiful. This will be the organization’s second full year, according to Bowen. 

The organization has cleaned up a couple dozen streets, Bowen said. Cleanups take two to three hours on average. Bowen said that “you can commit to any time you want.” In addition to the organization’s usual Saturday morning offerings, they now offer cleanups on Friday nights, as well. 

Those interested in the organization can join the Keep Fitchburg Beautiful mailing list and can contact the organization with any questions about where to take trash and how to start a cleanup. People interested in starting  their own cleanups should reach out to Keep Fitchburg Beautiful for yellow trash bags if they are picking up more than just a bag or two of trash, Bowen said. That way, the trash can be properly disposed of.

Doug Haynes was part of a group started 20 years ago to clean up a dumping area near his home. He said that “people from the neighborhood, including me, turned out to help, as did city of Fitchburg workers and our ward councilor at the time, the late Sue Koeck.” Because of the atmosphere of the project, the cleanup process became “an annual springtime ritual” for Haynes and many others. He learned about Keep Fitchburg Beautiful in the local newspaper when the organization started last year. 

Haynes stated that he picks up trash all over the city, “from the downtown area and commercial areas to residential areas and out-of-the way places where people go to dump things.” Haynes has met many neighbors in Fitchburg, as well as those who support the cleanups, such as people from Fitchburg’s Health Department and Department of Public Works. 

On cleanups, Haynes talks to volunteers about current events, preventing littering, and city matters. He said that, regarding cleanups, “my favorite part is the feeling of accomplishment when I am done with a stretch of road and I look at it and see a beautiful residential area, or woodland, or wetland area rather than a dumping area for trash.”

Haynes stated that “It does not take resources to participate. Bags and gloves, and sometimes food, are provided.” In the past, Haynes had been picking up trash on his own and others had pulled their car over to join him.

Joanne Martin, like Haynes, is a volunteer with Keep Fitchburg Beautiful. Martin began cleaning up neighborhoods with her husband years ago. She held her own cleanups every Sunday and held larger cleanups about three times a year. Martin learned about Keep Fitchburg Beautiful through Facebook and attended almost every cleanup. She said that participating in cleanups is one of the easiest ways in which people can help protect the environment and improve the community. 

When asked what her least favorite part of cleanups was, Martin said “that it is needed so often.” When considering the time needed for cleanups, Martin said that a person could probably clean the area around their home in 15 minutes. She stated that the only resource a person needs is a trash bag.

Regarding items found during cleanups, Haynes found typical items such as beer bottles, styrofoam cups, mattresses and paper products. One unusual item he found was a pair of sparkly high heels. One of the shoes was found on one end of the street and the other on the opposite side. He also found a “clean, crisp ten dollar bill” while cleaning up “a particularly trashy area.” In the woods away from the road, Martin found abandoned vacuum cleaners.

Keep Fitchburg Beautiful holds cleanups on Saturday mornings, usually from 8 a.m.-12 p.m. A list of cleanup events can be found on the Keep Fitchburg Beautiful Website. 

The Litterati app allows people to photograph the trash they find and uses AI to tag the trash based on what kind of litter it is. Besides categorizing litter, Litterati app members can create challenges based on how much trash they want to pick up and in what region. They can then invite others to join them. 

Those interested in the organization with questions about cleanups can contact Sam Squailia at [email protected]. Other organizations that provide information on cleanups and going green include Keep Massachusetts Beautiful and Keep America Beautiful.