HOWELL – The township held its Community Cleanup Day/Earth Day event on April 9 with participation by numerous local civic organizations.
Groups met at the pavilion at Echo Lake on Saturday morning and received instructions and equipment for partaking in the effort, including gloves, bags, and bright yellow road vests. Groups were assigned to numerous locations around town that accumulate litter, and given instructions about separating what they collected into common trash and recyclable items. While some groups were tasked with cleaning up the township’s parks, others were assigned to heavily traveled roadways.
Scout troops, sports teams, church organizations, businesses and even some families partook in Saturday’s outing in an effort to help beautify the town. Certain groups that had volunteered for the Adopt-a-Road portion of the program received their supplies earlier in the week in advance of the event.
One of the groups that participated in Community Cleanup Day was the Howell Women’s Club, who were assigned the stretch of roadway along Hurley Pond Road. The group, which is involved with numerous charitable causes, also holds fundraisers and sponsors scholarships to local students. Ecology and environmental concerns are among the causes they champion.
“To give back to the community,” said Vice President-Elect Margaret Valliere of the Howell Women’s Club when asked why she was participating. “We’re a community-based organization for the benefit of the community. [The environment] is one of our concerns. To beautify the community that we all embrace.”
Besides serving as an early Earth Day celebration, the event is part of the state-wide New Jersey Clean Communities program, which was created after passage of the Clean Communities Act in 1986. The Clean Communities Program Fund sees approximately $20 million dispersed to towns, counties, and state parks around the state annually.
In exchange for receiving the funding from the state, towns such as Howell must implement litter reduction programs and not only have active cleanup, such as Saturday’s outing, but also adhere to enforcement and education. Some 558 municipalities in the Garden State participate in the annual event.
“The women who participate usually are working women, so when they find the time, they like to do things that are for the community,” explained former Howell Women’s Club President Janet Ng-Marinaro. “This is one of the events that the town sponsors almost every year, and [ecology] is one of the issues that we speak about.”
Once groups had cleaned their assigned areas, they were instructed to leave the bags of debris at the side of the roadway, where Howell Department of Public Works employees would later pick them up.
Among the litter was various plastic-based items such as bottles and shopping bags, which are not biodegradable. It is estimated that some eight million tons of plastic ends up in the ocean on an annual basis, which is one of the reasons that New Jersey’s plastic bag ban, scheduled to go into effect on May 4, was passed by the State Legislature and signed into law November 4, 2020.
Howell’s Community Cleanup Day was part of the township’s greater effort at ecology, which includes Neighborhood Cleanups, Adopt-a-Road, National Youth Service Day, and Clean Sweep, which takes place in the fall.
“This is actually my first time out,” said Howell Women’s Club President-Elect Kelly Cunningham regarding her participation in Community Cleanup Day. “I would encourage all organizations to come out and just do their part. It’s a couple of hours. It’s fun. As hard work as it is, it’s still a good [time]. It makes you feel good at the end of the day.”