Students Help Keep Morris County Litter Free
By Jane Primerano
Children who spend a few hours picking up litter on their school yard don’t ever think the same way about litter again.
Liz Sweedy, Morris County Clean Communities coordinator, explained the benefit from public school litter cleanups funded through the Keep Morris County Litter Free grants. The school must conduct a littler cleanup on at least two acres of school property. The property may include ball fields and wooded areas. The cleanup must be held between April 15 and June 6 with participation of a minimum of 20 students with their adult supervisors.
“The students who do the cleanups are pretty grossed out,” Sweedy said.
The $500 grants may be used for outdoor receptacles for recyclables or trash or indoor receptacles for recyclables only, according to the county’s press release. These grants are awarded after the school submits required paperwork to the Morris County Municipal Utilities Authority.
The county press release quotes Freeholder Christine Myers, the freeholder liaison to the MUA. “This is a great opportunity to reinforce how important it is for them to care for their own environment and will show how it also improves our communities and our entire county.”
A second part of the Litter Free program is a poster contest for public school students in grades six through 12, Sweedy explained. The posters illustrate the ill effects of littering and each school displays the posters drawn by its students, she said. Each school chooses the two considered best and submits them to the county. The four county-wide winners are duplicated on recycling containers with the students’ names and the date of the contest. They are distributed to the schools of the four winners.
“They are heavy-duty metal containers and they look gorgeous at the schools,” Sweedy said, adding each winning student receives a $200 gift card.
Sweedy is hoping more schools participate this year. In 2015, 15 schools participated, but in 2014, 21 schools were part of the contest.
During the cleanup portion of the Litter Free initiative in 2015, 495 students and adult supervisors cleaned up 148 acres and collected 45 bags of trash, 52 bags of recyclables, 66 pounds of scrap metal and 56 pounds of construction debris.
Not all litter is created equal, Sweedy concedes.
Litter dumped near the headwaters of the Raritan River is damaging to birds and fish. The Raritan Headwaters Association pulled nearly two tons of objects, mostly plastic, from the headwaters last year, Sweedy said. Clean Communities works closely with the RHA.
“Tiny pieces of plastic, plastic ties and similar things, get cut off and become brittle, birds and fish ingest them,” she said.
Clean Communities also works with the Morris County Mosquito Control Department collecting tires.
“Last year they collected 966 tires,” Sweedy said.
Some municipalities sell stickers for tire disposal and the Parsippany Transfer Station takes them on certain days. But the state tire grant is no longer in place, so many county residents don’t have a convenient place to get rid of them. Some tire dealers do take old tires for a small fee, but not all do, she added.
Additional information on the grants is available from Sweedy at 973-285-8393.