The town’s regularly scheduled trash cleanups can lead to some dismaying discoveries.

“I found an electric fireplace that someone had dumped in the woods,” said Andrea Dickinson, one of the coordinators of the twice-yearly volunteer event.  

Others have found vacuum cleaners, mattresses, and tires – all tossed along roadsides or wooded areas.

The Department of Public Works eventually picks up such large items, which don’t fit in the purple garbage bags handed out for the town-wide drive. But it can feel like a losing battle.

Volunteers will fan out all over Plymouth once again, on May 17 and 18, for the town’s 14th spring cleanup. (There is also an annual fall cleanup, but spring is the big one.)

Plymouth resident Charlotte Russell is credited with starting the first semi-annual cleanup. She remembers getting a small group of people around town to clean up litter.

Since then, groups have formed throughout town to help with the cleanup, Russell said. (She serves on the board of the Independent.)

Dickinson first got involved in 2018. Dismayed by the litter she saw, she went to Town Hall and asked if there could be a litter cleanup, only to find out one had already been underway for years. She was directed to Patrick Farah, in the Department of Planning and Development, who connected her with Russell and others.  

Dickinson became more involved with organizing the cleanups, and because she was on the board of Sustainable Plymouth, the volunteer environmental organization began helping to coordinate the drives. She estimates that 50 to 250 people take part in the spring event. Neighborhood associations, school groups, church groups, and businesses all pitch in.

More litter in the South Street area. Credit: (Photo by Wes Ennis)

“It’s a great opportunity to get together with the community,” Dickinson said. “It’s the kind of thing where you drive by after the cleanup, and you have some sense of pride and ownership. Plymouth is a huge town, and the town staff have limited bandwidth.”

During past events, volunteers have picked up as many as 900 large garbage bags of litter in a single day from roads, waterways, picnic sites, the waterfront, parks, ponds, and sports fields.  

To pitch in, contact Farah at Town Hall at (508) 322-3375 or You can say where they want to clean up trash, get ideas on where to go, find a group to join, or pick up safety vests and purple bags. You can also sign up online here or through Sustainable Plymouth.

“He is a tremendous help when it comes to this whole cleanup,” Russell said of Farah.  

Fred Thys can be reached at

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