NEWARK, NJ - “You have to make cleanup fun,” declares Brenda Anderson, winner of this year’s New Jersey Clean Communities Council (NJCCC) Municipal Coordinator Award.
This upbeat approach to fighting litter pushed Anderson, an employee of the City of Newark for 30 years, to recreate the litter abatement and recycling programs in the state’s largest city.
Anderson was presented with the Municipal Coordinator Award for her work to develop and implement an ongoing, comprehensive municipal litter program in Newark, as well as demonstrating ongoing support of NJCCC programming in the city.
Sandy Huber, Executive Director of NJCCC, chose Anderson to lead Newark cleanup programs and make them her own. Anderson took full advantage of this opportunity, securing 968 cleanup volunteers from businesses, residents, schools and community groups.
Anderson is aiming for even more businesses to join in the upcoming year.
Anderson invites volunteers to pick up trash around Lincoln Park as part of an annual event, which NJCCC developed. She gives out lunch and drinks, brings in a magician and a DJ to a stage erected in the park and eagerly creates buzz to get others excited about volunteering.
“Brenda has taken her enthusiasm and energy to develop and grow the cleanup program in Newark,” Huber said. “It is this energy that has helped keep Newark clean as well as re-invented what a recycling program can mean in a large city.”
In addition, Anderson creates and distributes free T-shirts to volunteers each year with the “Slam Dunk The Junk” logo. She even awards the top trash collectors with “Golden Brooms,” painted by Anderson to acknowledge their efforts.
By continually introducing incentives, Anderson has given life to the cleanup program and turns it into something fresh and new every year. Anderson’s favorite age demographic for cleanups is teenagers.
“The cans and bottles that you throw on the ground could be recycled,” Anderson said. “We are trying to save the environment and keep our city clean.”
She is working for more litter enforcement in Newark.
“You can give out materials and brochures, but until you hit their pockets, they won’t care,” said Anderson. Working with NJCCC, Anderson wants to continue the city’s annual recycling summit, founded in 2015, where Anderson brought in an EPA spokesperson, mayor, and council to discuss how a community can effectively increase recycling.
In addition, she hopes to implement a poster contest, where kids can create drawings to be featured on a billboard for clean communities.
Said Anderson: “Young people are the future. They have to take it to the next level, the government, state – wherever it can go even further.” Anderson admits her job isn’t always easy, but is committed to community education.
“Recycling is a process. Clean Communities is a process,” she said. “We’re trying to get people to do what they’re supposed to do.”
NJCCC is a comprehensive, statewide litter-abatement program that has served New Jersey residents and visitors for more than 25 years. Learn more at njclean.org.