Letter: Everyone can help fix trash problem

May 10, 2013

I read with great interest the recent Gazette article “Trash cans lacking in Centre/South” (April 26). As a resident of JP for more than a decade, I have stayed here as much for the neighborhood’s open parklands and natural beauty as for its other amazing attributes of diversity, creativity and communal spirit. Unfortunately, over the past couple of years, I have begun to notice an unsettling contrast between that natural beauty and the litter-strewn streets around my home.

That’s why I was so glad to see this article, which underscored why our current means of handling trash are inadequate. I would argue that we can fix this problem by addressing it on three fronts: better trash cans, more proactive businesses and personal responsibility.

On the first point, as the article pointed out, the BigBelly solar-powered trash compactors number in the hundreds in Boston. And if you visit the city’s more touristy areas, you can find them. What you can’t find in these parts of town is litter, because the BigBelly cans really work. They completely trap garbage inside and thus prevent pests and odors. Not only that, but due to their compacting ability they require many fewer pickups, and that means fewer emissions from garbage trucks and less money needed in the municipal budget for waste disposal. The big downside is they aren’t cheap—$6,500 each for combination trash-and-recycling bins.

This prohibitive pricing means we may not get BigBelly bins in JP very soon. That is why we have to use other means to keep our community clean. This is where businesses come in, and my hope is that the JP Shines program, which encourages area merchants to keep their storefronts and sidewalks clean, will succeed. I think it truly is in business owners’ best interests to present a clean and tidy image if they wish to welcome local customers and maintain a positive community image that entices shoppers from farther afield.

Lastly, we, as members of this tremendous community—if we wish to preserve its unique identity as a green urban oasis—must take a greater share of responsibility for this issue. We can do this by keeping the areas in front of our homes clean and not disposing of our trash in public bins that are too full. And, at least once in a while, we can put on a pair of latex gloves and pick up the litter we find along our walks. If we want Jamaica Plain to be a happy and healthy neighborhood we can be proud of, we have some work to do. So let’s get to it!

Zachary Patten

Jamaica Plain