To the Editor:
Last year United States taxpayers spent nearly $11 billion cleaning up litter across the U.S. That is ten times more than the cost of trash disposal. While we may not agree on how to reduce waste, I do think everyone agrees on this: litter is unappealing, unattractive, and expensive to clean up.
Litter ends up on our lawns, in our gutters, alleyways and is often carried through storm drains into our local waterways. The presence of litter in our community is not just an environmental issue, it impacts quality of life, property values, and housing prices.
One of the best ways to address litter is to provide positive examples of how to properly dispose of waste and items that may be recycled. The disposal and recycling choices provided set an example which others chose to follow.
Princeton University sets an excellent example on its pristine and litter free campus. Every single landfill bin is paired with a recycle bin, both bins are distinctly colored and clearly labeled. When an item is added for recycle collection, like single use plastic bags, it is collected at all bins, sending a uniform and consistent message.
Over the period of 11/13-5/13, a group of volunteers advocated that the Town follow the model set by Princeton University with respect to waste and recycling. At that time the Town had 81 landfills bins and only 6 recycling bins which were all going to landfill due to contamination. The dual bins model selected by the Town lacked clear labeling; the poor design allowed for the collection of debris and attracted cigarette butts, and the lack of distinct coloring confused people. Additionally, because only 7.41 percent of the landfill bins were paired with a recycling bin residents and visitors received a mixed message about recycling. Recently the Town added six more dual bins downtown. While this second set has a labeled blue top they appear to be as contaminated as the initial set.
In 2016 I would like to see funds we have been allocating toward green programs and some money from our tonnage grants be used to model Princeton University’s example. This successful model will decrease the overflow of landfill waste in the current bins, increase recycle collection and set the right example of proper disposal, all of which would greatly reduce litter downtown.
While I advocate for action by the Town on the issue of litter, I do feel that responsibility for litter downtown belongs to all of us. We can each influence the actions of others around us at home and in our community at large. Perhaps the next time we see littler downtown, we can each do something. The Princeton Community Collective has set up an Instagram Hashtag #DirtyDowntownPrinceton to engage and encourage residents to pick up/rescue litter, dispose of it properly and then share their story with an image.
By setting the right example we can all collectively contribute to a cleaner more beautiful downtown!
Founder of The Princeton Community Collective,