Litter concern sparks city cleanup initiative

In an effort to clean up the city, New Brunswick is turning to its residents to do their part in keeping litter off the streets.

The city is trying to get everyone to be accountable because New Brunswick is such a diverse community where people are constantly coming and going, said City Spokesman Bill Bray.  University students are a major issue because many are just beginning to understand what renting a property entails.

"When they move off campus and live on their own, they have to take responsibility, because if they do not set up a program with their housemates, [trash] does not get taken care of," Bray said.

The city does clean certain areas, but the funds are not there to clean up every street in New Brunswick, which is when it becomes the residents' responsibility, he said.

"Businesses which are [Urban Enterprise Zone] members … pay only half the sales tax and [that] money is set aside in a fund the city can tap in order to pay for extra services," Bray said.

These extra services include litter clean ups, which cost more than $300,000 of UEZ funds and extra taxes for downtown businesses to pay for street cleaning, he said.

In an attempt to raise awareness around the city, a poster contest was held throughout district schools with a bicycle as the first place prize, said Recycling and Clean Communities Coordinator Donna Caputo.

These posters will be distributed to local businesses and schools in an attempt to prompt the entire community to support this initiative, she said.

"The ‘Stop, Think, Go Green' poster [has been] made into metal signs and [will] be hung in our parks and at our schools … in English and Spanish," Caputo said.

Residents will be able to find these signs all around the city in the forms of banners or decals on the backs of city vehicles as well, she said.

After a street has been cleaned up, a door hanger will be left at every house in order to show the residents that someone has been here and cleaned, with the hope that the hangers will get those residents to be mindful of their property, she said.

"We are trying to do a comprehensive outreach program with a repetitive message that people will see," Caputo said.

The city is going to have to cover the cost for the education and outreach programs, along with refuse bags, trash receptacles and two new sanitation inspectors, she said.

"New Brunswick Tomorrow provided $10,000 in funding for the outreach material," Caputo said.

This was a joint effort throughout the community, with both residents and the New Brunswick Environmental Commission being integral parts of getting the initiative started, she said.

In the community, block captains will be responsible for organizing residents in their area to pick up litter, Bray said.

"We will still have our clean ups, [but] these block captains could organize mini-clean ups along their block … and get their neighbors engaged in a more routine basis to go out and clean their own properties," he said.

Part of the problem is that people will take trash with them onto the streets and just toss it aside when they are finished with it, Bray said.

"Statistically, they say that if people see litter present, [they] find it more acceptable to add more litter to it," Caputo said.

Bray said if people spent some time picking up the litter on their block, they would have a better understanding of the importance of keeping the community clean.

Although the program is seeking to change the community, some city residents have doubts.

"It would be really nice if they could get it to work, but it will be really hard to get people organized," said School of Arts and Sciences junior Brianna Harney.

College students have a hard time keeping their own places clean, so it will be difficult to extend that to the entire street, she said.

"It will be really great if everyone cleans up their property," said School of Arts and Sciences junior Diana Fernandes. "I would love to see Louis Street clean."

Caputo said she would like to see everyone in New Brunswick care about litter and keep their own premises clean.

"I challenge people to not let a red Solo cup drop to the ground again," she said. "And if it does, pick it up."

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