ATTLEBORO - White plastic bags blow across Route 1 like tumbleweeds across a highway in the desert Southwest.

They get caught in neighborhood trees and billow like sails at sea.

But they're not natural like tumbleweeds, or useful and pretty like sails.

They're litter, and they're ugly and they deface South Attleboro from one end to the other of the Route 1 corridor, along with lottery tickets, coffee cups, soda bottles, receipts, cigarettes and other jetsam dumped by people.

And it's not just South Attleboro. Virtually every town and city faces the same problem.

In South Attleboro, it creates the impression of blight.

The landscape of litter leaves residents who have pride in their neighborhoods no choice but to constantly clean up - residents like Linda D'Agostino.

At least once a week, she's out in front of her home on Ellendale Avenue just off traffic-clogged routes 1 and 1A gathering the trash that gets thrown or blown into her yard.

And, of course, she has to pay to get rid of it.

It's aggravating beyond measure, D'Agostino says.

"South Attleboro used to be beautiful, but Route 1 is absolutely appalling. It's like a wasteland, it's disgusting," she said. "Something's got to be done."

She just shakes her head at the senselessness of it.

"I don't know what's up with people," she said of litterers.

Michael Godin, a recent transplant from Plainville, echoes that sentiment.

He points at the trash piling up on a five-acre vacant lot at the intersection of routes 1 and 1A, where shopping bags balloon in bushes and other assorted refuse mounds up like dirty snow.

It all creates an unsightly frame for land that was once destined to be the site of a new car dealership.

It's also clear that trespassers have dumped household waste in the middle of the property - including, ironically enough, vacuum cleaner hoses.

"It's an eyesore. I have to drive by it every day, and it's one big pile of trash," Godin said of the sprawling lot.

And again, if it's going to get cleaned up, the task falls to the land owner. In this case, it was Vachon Realty who had to foot the bill through no fault of its own.

D'Agostino's brother, David Gallant, a home builder and city resident, is equally disgusted.

"I think it's awful," he said. "It's just so unnecessary."

Meanwhile, something is being done in response to D'Agostino's plea, but when it's done it will probably have to be done again and again.

Veteran City Councilor Walter Thibodeau, who represents the area as Ward 1 councilor, was contacted by D'Agostino, and he got in touch with Health Agent Alan Perry, who sent letters to property owners like Vachon, asking them to clean up the mess.

Vachon responded immediately and had workers out on the same day a Sun Chronicle photographer was there to take shots of all the junk.

Perry has also sent letters to the state Department of Public Works seeking a sweep of routes 1 and 1A.

And on the local front, he's ordered his workers to pick up litter on city-owned streets as much as possible.

Thibodeau said the trash is especially noticeable in the spring when a winter-long accumulation emerges from melting snow and overpowers colorful daffodils and the sweet sounds of song birds returning from the South.

"It becomes visible everywhere, and it looks like a dump," Thibodeau said.

And he's not optimistic that one-time cleanups will solve the problem. The litter will be back unless there's change in the messy minds of thoughtless litterers.

"I fully expect this to be a recurring problem until people decide not to do these things," he said.

Thibodeau said there seemed to be more of an emphasis on keeping the environment clean 30 to 40 years ago. He recalled the iconic TV commercial in which a Native American was pictured with a tear trickling down his cheek because of rubbish blanketing a once pristine landscape.

"I don't think people of this generation and maybe even of the previous generation have the same awareness of the mess they are making," he said.

It seems as though keeping a neighborhood clean should make as much sense or come as naturally as keeping a house clean, but evidently that's not the case.

Thibodeau said maybe there needs to be a public campaign, as in times past - a constant drumbeat to alter behavior and get people to stop tossing trash wherever they go.

"There's no barrage of TV commercials against littering. You don't see that anymore," Thibodeau said.

And there doesn't seem to be much hope for a change in attitude at this point, he said.

"People who are responsible are responsible in everything they do," Thibodeau said. "And people who are not will do what they want to do."

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