East Boston resident Magdalena Ayed founded The Harborkeepers. The goal of the organization is to improve environmental justice, harbor stewardship and access to the neighborhood’s 15 miles of coastline.
“Our mission is building coastal community resiliency and environmental advocacy in East Boston through engagement, education and stewardship,” said Ayed. “This is a very grassroots effort. We have been out there cleaning the harbor. It’s a uniting community activity. We want a vision of the waterfront to be the vision of the community.”
So when Acting Mayor Kim Janey announced on Earth Day that the city will begin distributing new recycle bins made partly from ocean-bound plastic, Ayed was elated.
“As leader of a local Boston organization that does everyday ocean conservation and sees how plastic pollution impacts the environment, I am extremely excited and inspired to see these containers in our streets,” said Ayed. “To see the City is finding alternate ways to purchase plastic recycling products sends a strong message to the rest of the nation that indeed we can make better choices, choices that will help reduce plastic use and pollution and thus help reduce carbon emissions.”
The Ocean Core cart is made from 40 percent post-consumer recycled material, 10 percent of which is recycled ocean-bound plastic found near lakes, beaches, and waterways leading to the ocean.
Distribution of the new recycle bins will be through a partnership between the City of Boston and the Rehrig Pacific Company who makes the bins. This partnership will supply over 10,000 residents with the new Ocean Core recycling carts over the next two years.
“As Mayor of a coastal city that cherishes its surrounding waterways, Boston is proud to be at the forefront of this technology,” said Janey. “By distributing recycling carts composed of reusable ocean bound plastics, we’re taking another step in our pursuit to become a zero waste city, and to ensure Boston is healthy and sustainable for future generations.”
Recent studies have shown that there is far more plastic waste in the Atlantic Ocean than previously thought. With Ocean Core carts, Boston will reuse the equivalent of 61 miles of 2-liter bottles stretched end-to-end. That’s the equivalent of running the Boston Marathon nearly two and a half times over.
The Public Works Department will begin distributing the new Ocean Core carts to residents who have a broken or damaged recycling cart in need of replacement. Requests for a new cart should be submitted through 311, the City’s 24-hour constituent hotline.
“As the first City in the nation using this new innovative technology, Boston is leading the way for other municipalities across the country to acknowledge the importance of addressing environmental issues today that will impact us tomorrow,” said Public Works Superintendent of Waste Reduction Brian Coughlin. “Today’s announcement on Earth Day symbolizes the dedication that we as a City have towards achieving our zero waste goals.”
For the past few years Ayed and The Harborkeepers have seen first hand how ocean-bound plastic is hurting the local environment and planet.
During one recent cleanup along Eastie’s waterline behind Shore Plaza, Harborkeepers’ volunteers collected nearly fifty bags of trash, a shopping cart, half-dozen tires, a bicycle, toys, pieces of rubber, old phones, a TV, and other assorted debris.
“The amount of trash that has been collected so far, which is now saved from being washed away by the tide into the harbor, is noteworthy,” said Ayed. “However, it is also a wake-up call that a larger multi-stakeholder effort to address marine debris and improve Harborwalk areas on the East Boston waterfront must be a priority.”