Municipal and county governments are receiving more than $24 million in annual Clean Communities grants to fund litter removal programs that spruce up communities, improve water quality, reduce localized flooding and protect natural habitats, Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette announced today.
The townships in Ocean County to receive the funds are: Toms River, $255,147; Brick, $191,022; Lakewood, $163,583; Berkeley, $149,669; Jackson, $133,793; Manchester, $125,918.
The grant awards were announced in conjunction with an open house event hosted by New Jersey Clean Communities Council at Kean University. This year’s funding represents a nearly $2.7 million increase from last year. In total, the DEP is awarding $21.4 million to eligible municipalities and $2.7 million to counties across the state to conduct cleanups, educate the public and enforce litter-related laws and ordinances. Funding for the grant program is generated from taxes paid by businesses that produce litter-generating products as well as penalties collected for litter-related violations.
“The New Jersey Clean Communities grant program has long been an important resource for local governments across New Jersey, helping them fund programs that remove litter that is unsightly, harms wildlife, degrades water quality and worsens flooding by getting into stormwater-management systems,” said Commissioner LaTourette. “The programs also help remove countless quantities of plastic materials which do not biodegrade and create many serious problems for people, ecosystems and wildlife. We are proud to continue to support these efforts that make New Jersey a cleaner and greener place to live.”
The New Jersey Clean Communities Council, a nonprofit organization partnered with the DEP, oversees the reporting requirements for the program. Grant awards are based on population, housing units and miles of municipally owned roadways, as prescribed by state law.
“Local litter abatement programs are more important than ever as we strive to prevent roadway litter from getting into our waterways,” said JoAnn Gemenden, Executive Director of the New Jersey Clean Communities Council. “Clean Communities grants provide local governments with critical funds to help create a Litter Free NJ, allowing them to organize volunteer cleanups, purchase cleanup equipment and trash and recycling receptacles for public spaces, promote litter education initiatives, and enhance stormwater management programs.”
The Clean Communities Council operates public awareness campaigns to educate the public, primarily youth, about the adverse environmental impacts of litter, especially on waterways. The organization also helped facilitate the transition away from single-use plastic and paper bags with its Litter Free NJ campaign, utilizing public service announcements to remind residents to bring their own reusable bags when shopping, and to recycle plastic bags. These efforts have helped reduce the amount of plastic pollution in the state.
Litter comes from many sources, such as people who carelessly toss away their trash, overflowing and uncovered garbage cans, and construction sites. Litter is often dispersed by the wind and carried into stormwater collection systems, where it can clog drains causing flooding, harming wildlife and degrading the quality of the state’s surface waters.
The Clean Communities grant program funds a variety of activities including volunteer cleanups of public spaces; cleanups of stormwater systems that can disperse trash into waterways; educational outreach campaigns; enforcement of local anti-littering ordinances; graffiti removal; and purchases of trash receptacles, recycling bins and anti-litter signs.