Last weekend, a team of Rider students traveled alongside the Office of Sustainability’s Eco Reps to John A. Roebling Park in Hamilton to participate in the Abbott Marsh Cleanup. Though this cleanup went beyond the limits of the Lawrenceville campus, the lessons learned that day by students can be applied anywhere.
Upon arrival, there was a noticeable amount of garbage alongside the road. About 53 percent of roadside litter can be attributed to passing motorists and 23 percent to pedestrians, according to Keep America Beautiful. These are intentional acts that could easily be avoided. Not only is littering unethical, it is against the law in most states — in New Jersey, the first conviction is a fine up to $500, and the punishments only get worse. The second conviction within six months are fines up to $1,000 and approximately two months in jail.
The ugly truth behind this preventable crime is as real as the fact that plastic will never fully decompose. If you don’t carry out what you carry in and you’re caught, you will suffer the consequences. Regardless of whether you are punished, the planet will suffer.
The cleanup took place throughout the park and included people from the surrounding communities as well. Attendees split into smaller groups and explored different areas around the lake. Volunteers found a large amount of trash and plastic tucked into nearly every corner of the park. A lot of the disposable items found that day had clearly been there for years, pointing to a less-than-surprising trend. After all, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, plastic litter has increased 165 percent since 1969.
This beautiful, sunny Saturday was tainted by plastic bottles, old tires, TVs, small pieces of plastic and bottle caps. The issue of pollution is right in our backyard and in our hands to change.
By the end of the cleanup, there were nearly forty full bags of collected trash. It is fantastic they were able to collect that much, but very sobering to realize it was all there in the first place.
Sophomore environmental science major Kristen Castronuovo said her biggest takeaway from this cleanup was seeing firsthand the “buildup of garbage that accumulates in this area, the sheer amount of garbage that we collected and the different types, like a broken bicycle and abandoned hot tub.”
Sophomore biology major Katerina Tsekorous said she was disgusted by “the way nature had to adapt to the environment in order to avoid dying, such as snails making homes in glass bottles and trees growing roots through plastic bottles.”
Although participating in this cleanup may have been a bit disheartening for some who saw the ways we negatively impact our ecosystems, it inspired others. It was clear after spending hours cleaning up trash placed there by others that the most significant change starts with you.
Buy reusable products like bags, bottles and mugs. Limiting your waste means less will end up in the wrong place. You don’t need to wait for an official cleanup event to take place, you can help by picking up litter from your own neighborhood, park, beach or anywhere you enjoy spending time. Grab some friends and make an event of your own out of it. When it comes to littering, each and every individual can make a difference.
— Melissa Willhouse
Lawrenceville Eco Rep
Printed in the 4/4/18 issue.