The New Jersey Clean Communities Council has renewed its annual battle against litter-strewn highways and debris-despoiled parks. On May 12th, the nonprofit announced an increase in the grants that will be awarded to New Jersey counties and municipalities for the upcoming fiscal year. In total, this year’s funding has increased by nearly $2.7 million compared to last year.
Since its creation in 1986, the Clean Communities Program has worked with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection in organizing New Jersey’s only all-inclusive statewide litter clean-up program. By taxing businesses that create litter and fining companies that commit litter-related violations, the program funds local clean-up efforts in counties and local communities.
Warren County’s Clean Communities funding has increased steadily over the years. In 2021, it received about $89,000 in Clean Communities grants; in 2022, about $92,000; and for the year that begins in June 2023, it will receive $103,285.
How much litter can that money clean up? Fiscal year 2022 is still ongoing, but the numbers from 2021 are clear. In Warren County, 459 volunteers participated in 38 cleanups of county parks and roads. Together, they threw out 337 bags of litter and recycled 140 bags, clearing a total of 92 road miles.
The Sheriff’s Labor Assistance Program (SLAP) of Warren County collected almost twice as much litter, bagging 790 bags of litter and 250 bags of recycling in a cleanup of about 350 road miles. SLAP is a corrections program that allows people convicted of lesser crimes to serve their sentence in the form of community service as an alternative to imprisonment.
Local municipalities receive Clean Communities grants, too. For fiscal year 2023, Blairstown, Frelinghuysen, Hardwick and Knowlton are all receiving increased funding for their cleanup efforts compared to last year.
In Frelinghuysen, Municipal Clerk Donna Zilberfarb said the cleanup works a bit differently.
“We’re a continuous clean-up,” she said.
Frelinghuysen’s Clean Communities program works with nonprofits, sports teams and church groups, as well as school groups. Each group receives a mini-grant to clean up a local road or park. Zilberfarb estimates that nearly every road in Frelinghuysen’s 34 square miles gets cleaned at least once in the warmer months, while the more heavily trafficked roads get cleaned two to three times a year.
“It’s a great program,” she said. “Our town stays fairly clean throughout the year.”
Chip O'Chang, Contributing Writer
Chip O'Chang is an educator, fiction writer, and lifelong resident of New Jersey. He has also written for My Life Publications and NJ Indy. He lives in the NJ Skylands with his partner, two cats, and and a bearded dragon.