NUTLEY, NJ - This year, April 22, is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Considering we are in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic I question if this is a time to celebrate. While COVID-19 remains strong, we can’t gather to do the things we normally do together such as Nutley’s annual Earth Day Clean-up. But this should not stop us from taking care of Mother Earth or stop the progress, we as a town and as a state have made in reducing, reusing and recycling.

I have always been an advocate for Earth Day. I’m sure you have heard me rant many times on this subject. Now other people in town are taking a stand as well. Middle school student Braden Somers has been vocal at many Nutley Board of Commissioners meetings speaking her mind trying to ban single-use plastic.

Yet, many of us are still being careless not considering the harm they will cause to not just Mother Earth, but also fellow humans and animals, especially wild life that live near us. People are littering more now than ever before. Not just normal garbage, as if that’s not bad enough, but latex or plastic gloves, masks and other personal protective equipment in our streets, parking lots, all of which end up in the sewers and our rivers and streams.

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First, personal protective equipment may be contaminated with the virus, which is now being left out in the open, where a small child could accidently pick it up. And many animals including birds end up eating our litter. These plastic products get stuck in their stomachs killing them. So far we know dogs cannot get the virus, but we recently discovered cats can. There are many stray cats who can now contract this terrible disease because humans are lazy and sloppy.

How did we go from wanting to do away with single-use plastic bags and straws to littering all these PPE products? This is not only harmful to the planet but to ourselves, not just down the road but right now. Is it so difficult to find a trash can in town? I know Nutley Park ShopRite has at least one stationed at each of their three parking lots and one on Franklin Avenue in front of the store. The township also has trash cans all along Franklin Avenue.

Probably the only good thing coming from this horrible destructive virus is the effects it is having on the planet. While we are all doing our part by staying home, pollution is subsiding, the ozone layer is beginning to recover, and so Mother Earth is healing. Astronauts and satellites are confirming this from space with pictures.

We are reducing our carbon footprint, but we are slacking with everything else. I hope people are still recycling since it is still mandatory in New Jersey. I have noticed Nutley residents recycling is increasing over the years, but my household recycles more than anyone’s I’ve seen.

As a reminder all plastics from 1 through 7 including yogurt containers, detergent and shampoo bottles are recycled in Nutley. Also included are cartons such as cream, milk (any type), juice, soup, broth, and wine. Paper and cardboard should be separated as Nutley has two different collections. All shredded paper should be placed in a clear plastic bag. Included with paper recycling are phone books, magazines, office and colored paper, pizza boxes and cereal boxes.

Let’s not forget recycling doesn’t just pertain to plastic, glass, aluminum, tin, paper and cardboard. The township also collects vegetative waste and leaves on Wednesdays from April until December. Debris should be placed in a bin or paper bag, not a plastic bag. The township also collects old tires, two at a time by scheduled appointment.

The township sends out a detailed notice every year with the latest recycling rules and regulations including four township electronic recycling dates and GreeNutley events, currently all suspended due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Check with nutleynj.org or call 973-284-4959.

Although the township does not take plastic shopping bags, ShopRite does. There is a bin located at both entrances where shoppers can deposit their used plastic bags.

So I ask this question again, as I asked in the past, why do we need to remember Mother Earth on April 22 each year? Shouldn’t we always be thinking of her? Shouldn’t we always recycle and reduce our use? If we don’t litter, we wouldn’t need to designate a day to clean up our parks and schools. Don’t get me wrong, this is a very important day and it needs to be acknowledged, but what about the other 364 days? We should always be thinking about our planet, cleaning up after ourselves and reducing our carbon footprint. If we did, we wouldn’t need an Earth Day clean-up event, we wouldn’t need a day to remind us to do these things.

As we celebrate this golden anniversary of Earth Day, let us continue moving forward in our efforts in making this planet a better place. Let us not go backwards on our progress, but find new ways to not only be efficient but protect our planet at the same time. We don't have a “second choice.”

Now celebrate, by starting a garden in your yard. We are all home anyway let’s make the best of it.