The South Plainfield Environmental Commission’s Clean Communities Advisory Board sponsored its first “Litter-Free Event” at the Labor Day community picnic on September 5.  The immediate objective – to reduce the amount of litter that would need to be picked up at the end of the day – was achieved.  Department of Public Works staff reported they picked up less than half a bag of trash from the Middle School grounds, noticeably less than last year.

A Litter-Free Event is a public gathering that leaves the venue as clean as it was before everyone arrived.  The advantage to the Borough is obvious.  In financial terms, fewer taxpayer dollars are needed to pay DPW overtime for cleanup.  In civic terms, leaving the grounds clean and undamaged creates pride and a sense of community well-being.

DPW set out many litter cans around the grounds, and at each can they set a “Let’s Make This a Litter-Free Event” sign as a reminder.  A banner was hung near the entrance to the picnic grounds, and an announcement explaining the signs and asking for cooperation from the public was made three times during the parade.  Personal litter bags were available at vendors’ tables, so that people would have a place to stow any trash until they reached a litter can.

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The long-term goal of this event was to raise everyone’s awareness of a problem that can be solved by individual action.  Litter may seem like a minor problem but it carries big costs.  Excluding storm drain maintenance, last year’s litter control program cost South Plainfield over $125,000.  Fortunately, many of the costs are covered by the NJ Clean Communities Grant. 

For more information, contact the Clean Communities Coordinator at 908.226.7621.