Portland officials say they want cooperation from the owners of food trucks to crack down on a burgeoning litter problem at the Eastern Promenade.

The city said litter became at issue at the site this spring. Warm weather and the easing of the coronavirus pandemic brought out people, and the food truck operators found that the Eastern Prom was a popular site for people to buy their food.

But as litter increased at the site, city officials said that some vendors were ignoring a regulation that they provide a trash can for their customers to use and weren’t doing enough to prevent people from scattering the wraps and bags that the food was wrapped in.

Vendors, on the other hand, say they have in fact provided their own cans, but the city has been slow to empty its own trash cans on the Prom. Sea gulls flock to the full cans at night, they said, spreading litter around the hillside that stretches down to Casco Bay.

The question of who and what are to blame for the litter flared recently on social media, when a food truck owner complained that workers clean up the area when they arrive each day, but the city hasn’t responded with more maintenance of its own in the area.

A city official responded online, saying Portland would soon begin providing more trash pickup on weekends, but at the same time warning that food trucks may no longer be allowed at the Eastern Prom if conditions don’t improve.

Eddie Holmes of Portland deposits trash that he picked up from the lawn along the Eastern Promenade on Wednesday. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Nat Greator, a Portland resident who buys lunch from the food trucks two or three times a week, said he doesn’t see litter at the site as a major problem and said the lunch crowd might not be to blame for what litter there is. He said the litter is worse at the base of the hill, where hikers toss water bottles and other trash at the entrance to hiking trails.

“I don’t see too much trash from the food trucks,” he said. Greator said he usually takes the lunch he buys to his house, a few blocks away, and takes care to throw out the wrappers and bags with his own trash.

Minh Nguyen, who operates the food truck Vy Banh Mi, said he thinks the vendors and their customers are getting a bad rap for the litter problem and hopes that city officials don’t follow through on the threat to force the trucks to move from the area.

He puts a trash can right next to his order window, Nguyen said, but “we can’t control everybody.”

Forcing the trucks to move, he said, “is not right. Everyone’s just trying to make a living.”

Jessica Grondin, Portland’s spokeswoman, downplayed the threat to ban food trucks from the Prom and said the city is looking for a solution that doesn’t lead to that.

She agreed that the litter problem changes over the course of the day and that it gets worse at night, after the food trucks have left the area.

The city recently moved more trash cans to the area, Grondin said, including some that are fully enclosed. That, she said, should help eliminate the sea gull issue.

But she also said Portland has issues of its own that make it hard to address the litter problem, including “staffing challenges” in the Public Works Department, which is responsible for emptying trash cans around the city. She said there are more than a dozen open positions in the department.

Grondin also said she thinks it is a temporary problem. As people feel more comfortable dining inside at restaurants, she said, the crush of business at the food vendors should ease somewhat.

Until then, Grondin said, Portland officials hope to make sure that food vendors are supplying trash cans while the city tries to increase its attention to issues on the Prom.

“It’s going to take everybody pitching in,” she said.

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