RANDOLPH, NJ - This summer, 8th grade Girl Scout Juliana Puttre plans to raise awareness for chewing gum litter -- which endangers animals, the environment and local property -- through added signage at Freedom and Brundage Parks.
For her Girl Scout Silver Award project, Puttre needed to find a problem to solve that helped the community in the process. Over the past few months, she researched the dangers of gum litter to the environment and wrote letters to local media outlets.
“Gum is non-biodegradable, meaning it doesn’t break down ever,” she said. “So to get it removed, it must be physically scraped off by adding cleaning fluid, possible damaging the property or going into our water supply.”
Littered gum also hurts the animals who eat it. For example, birds eat the gum, mistaking it for bread, and then choke and die.
"Raccoons are afraid of the gum when it sticks on their feet, and in their defense, they chew their feet off," her research details.
As the next step towards the Silver Award, Puttre presented her research on Thursday at the joint Parks and Recreation Committees meeting to propose new signage in Freedom and Brundage parks, which the committees voted to approve.
Her presentation also detailed how municipalities and businesses spend millions of dollars each year cleaning gum off of sidewalks. While the power washing cleans the streets, the gum then drains into rivers where it can harm wildlife.
Puttre met with Russ Newman, director of the recreation department, to determine the best location for signs. “After my meeting with Mr. Newman, I learned that gum was affecting the hard surfaces of the parks and brought up problems concerning maintenance,” she said.
9-inch x 12-inch signs will be clipped to fences near the new turf fields, basketball courts, tennis courts and skate park which read, “Please Don’t Litter Gum. Help Keep Your Community Clean.”
Because the township recently invested in these areas, Newman suggested these as good options for testing the signage this summer.
Puttre will experiment with the effectiveness of the project throughout the parks by taking photos before adding the signs and again at the end of the summer. Newman will assist with updates from his maintenance staff.
“At the very least, it’s a great public awareness program,” said Recreation Committee Chair Joe Nazzaro. “Most of us didn’t have a clue.”
Councilmember Joanne Veech reminded the team to invite Puttre back in September or October to report on the effectiveness of the experiment.