One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Two years ago a pilot program was started in Eagle Hill to place barrels on every street corner as part of multi-prong approach to curb the occurrences of litter on Eastie’s streets. The barrels were not the solution to litter but simple one tool in a program that was to contain an educational component and enforcement against residents dumping household trash.

Year after year there was a resounding ‘No!’ from Boston Public Works heads because they complained putting barrels in residential areas only leads to people disposing of household trash in receptacles meant for litter.

Residents in Eagle Hill thought differently and the plan to educate, enforce coupled with the barrels could have been a wise solution to begin addressing litter.

The community did its homework.

In September 2004, before the city’s street sweepers were scheduled to arrive on the streets of Eagle Hill, volunteers cleaned the sidewalk and street on both sides of Brooks Street between Saratoga and Bennington.  All materials were bagged.

Using a data collection sheet designed for the study, the children and teachers at Swift Waters Day Care Center on Saratoga Street carefully identified and catalogued the item by name, size, where was it likely to have been bought, who was likely to have bought it, where the item was likely to have been used and how it could have ended up on the street.

The data was turned over to the city along with a comprehensive plan on how the barrels could work.

The city finally capitulated and the pilot program was implemented and the city committed 30-40 barrels to Eagle Hill

Now, three years into the program, Public Works has been quietly removing the barrels from Eagle Hill’s street corners. Already, barrels on Brooks and Marion have been removed.


The city is complaining that people are throwing household trash in the barrels.

While this might be true removing the barrels is not the answer.

The neighborhood and its volunteers that didn’t get paid one cent to conduct studies, work with city and spend countess hours formulating a plan to make the barrels work should be outraged at the city’s lack of commitment to the program.

To simply dismiss the program over dumping is foolish. Dumping was always factored in and expected and is the precise reason the volunteers that helped implement the program alongside the city made sure the pilot program included education and enforcement components.

It seems the city has reneged on these commitments and taking the easy way out from the program by saying it’s too hard to maintain the barrels and continue the program.

Instead, the city should have had a comprehensive educational campaign like the one requested by residents to be rolled out at the same time the barrels were installed three years ago.

Also, the city should have, for at least a short while, made an attempt at strict enforcement against dumping. A few $200 tickets handed out over the course of a few months at the start of the barrel program would have been a great deterrent against potential dumping scofflaws.

Residents are becoming very tired with the same old answer from the city that it’s ‘too hard’ or ‘too time consuming’ to do the job they have been charged with and agreed to back when the program started.

Instead of rolling up their sleeves, like the community did to get this important program implemented and trying to meet us halfway, the city has all but labeled the program a failure because some employees in the city don’t want to get their hands dirty and take a little extra initiative to help us keep the neighborhood clean.

The volunteers that helped this program get off the ground did so in their spare time, away from their families at numerous meetings on the subject.

The city employees have but one role to play in this scenario and that is to do the job they’ve been hired to do and not complain that it’s ‘too hard’.

Because the only hard thing here is watching years of planning by volunteers go down the tubes because the city doesn’t want to try and meet us half way.

We’ve put our best ideas forward through sweat and all we asked for in return was for the city to meet us half way.

Now it seems like they are walking away from us and throwing the work the community did in the barrel.

Hopefully they can find one on Eagle Hill.

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