BAR HARBOR — Due to the amount of trash that accumulated around town this summer season, along with the influx of visitors, the Bar Harbor Public Works Department went from picking up trash once a day to twice a day, seven days a week, said Bar Harbor Public Works Director Bethany Leavitt.
Highway Superintendent Bill Soukup said they began to notice overflowing trash bins the summer of 2020. With the unexpected number of visitors who came to town that summer, Leavitt said it took the department time to realize that the trash cans were filling up faster than before.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, we had less [trash cans], so we have actually added more trash cans,” said Leavitt. There are now 75 trash cans that get emptied regularly.
According to Leavitt, the department has a multi-pronged approach to dealing with trash in town, which includes emptying trash receptacles, washing sidewalks and sweeping the streets.
What the department found this season was that most of the time the trash cans were full each time, even with the additional daily collection. Soukup said there have been instances where people put their household trash in the public bins.
“Last year, because of the pandemic, we at that time noticed more to-go containers, face masks and pizza boxes than in previous years ending up in and out of the trash cans,” Leavitt said.
“We also have trash pickup in the town parks early in the morning where a lot of times we will pick up face masks, dog waste bags and cardboard boxes,” said Soukup.
Bar Harbor Public Works is responsible for keeping the town’s sidewalks, public parking lots, roads and parks clean. Though public works has increased trash collections, some of their ability is limited. Leavitt said the department is unable to sweep around business parklets and parked cars.
“Some of them [businesses] asked us to not wash in front of their establishment, or their parklet, and so when they asked for that consideration it was their responsibility to keep it clean,” she said.
The town is not responsible for private parking lots, private roads, business trash, Acadia National Park trash and Department of Transportation road waste, but sometimes the wind blows trash around and it ends up in their territory. “If it’s [trash] getting blown around, we wouldn’t pick it up until the next morning if it’s made its way to where we are street sweeping,” said Leavitt, who added that the crews take pride in how clean the town is.
For many years, Friends of Acadia hosted a roadside cleanup on Mount Desert Island the last Saturday of April, but that has been canceled for the last two years because of the pandemic.
However, citizen collection was back this month thanks to another local nonprofit.
On a windy Oct. 30, five Bar Harbor/MDI Rotary Club members went out to pick up litter around Bar Harbor. In just a few hours, they collected nine bags of trash from the litter that was scattered around Main and Cottage streets.
The group found face masks, straws, beer bottles and empty nips bottles. A dirty diaper and a pair of underwear placed in the crook of a shrub in one of the parking lots were perhaps the most interesting finds.
“We have been picking up trash along the roadsides of MDI each month since July,” said Bar Harbor/MDI Rotary Club President Lisa Horsch Clark. Horsh Clark said the club picked up more trash in Bar Harbor on Oct. 30 than it did in Southwest Harbor this summer and fall.