Editorial: Let’s tackle this mess in memory of Norma Stewart

With all due respect to Earth Day, a few hours of spring cleaning just won’t cut it this year. The mess is too monumental.

Clutter this colossal calls for more radical measures. It demands the Ruth Manchester/Norma Stewart approach. In fact, this year’s effort might be dedicated to Mrs. Stewart who passed away last summer at age 89.

Ridding the town they love of trash has been a near lifelong obsession for the Tiverton sisters.

Years ago, before every town had one, Ms. Stewart organized a town-wide trash day and once forced a Massachusetts company to stop placing door hanger ads which the winds quickly converted to litter.

And back when Mrs. Manchester was a teacher, she would recruit a posse of second graders at lunchtime and set out to spruce up the school grounds.

Her message to her students was that the battle against trash ought to be a year-round endeavor and she led by example. Without fanfare she has  set out on long hikes down Tiverton’s Main Road each day for years armed with sturdy shoes, gloves and trash bags. Her daily haul of flotsam no doubt measures in the tons by now.

These two are not alone in their pursuit of trash, just among the most devoted.

Some make it their business to spruce up Westport’s town beach, others the roadsides in Little Compton where a haul of foam coffee cups, plastic bags, beer cans and worse line the roadside, half covered by winter sand. Much more lurks back in the woods, bits and pieces even dangling from tree branches, blown there by some January gust.

So long as slobs (and coffee drive-throughs) are tolerated, we’ll have litter. But trash would quite simply cease to exist if the rest of us put forth just the tiniest fraction of anti-litter energy that Mrs. Manchester, Mrs. Stewart et al have expended over the decades.

Calling Public Works to squawk is one approach. Getting out there with gloves and bag works even better — it’s great exercise and it’s tax free.

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