Litter. It’s everywhere. And, why? In the end, it’s our own mess that we created. Maybe not you. Maybe not me. But for the most part, we can all agree that it’s Staten Islanders, mostly, contributing to Staten Island’s litter problem. After all, we can’t blame new Jerseyans or Brooklynites for what we do in our own “backyard.” In fact, if we considered the entirety of Staten Island to be our own yard, chances are, littering would cease to be an issue, entirely.
So, what’s required? Thinking differently. No one literally throws litter in their own yard. (We should hope!) Our streets, sidewalks, and other shared public areas should not be considered differently. Maybe you think just one cigarette butt isn’t going to make such a mess. But if you throw butts on the ground every day you stand at the same bus stop, sooner or later it’s going to be a pile of cigarette butts. And, multiply that by every person who doesn’t think twice about littering.
How about a water bottle? It’s just one. Candy wrappers? Not a big deal. Fast food packaging? I couldn’t find a pail. See how one spot, over the course of just a week, can end up looking like a dumping ground? Random garbage, here and there, can quickly turn even a quaint spot into a place that looks like no one cares.
Thankfully, the Fresh Kills landfill, the city dump on our West Shore, is now closed. We’ve all worked so hard to change the image of Richmond County from the place where the world’s largest dump sits, to a land of fine dining, great culture, and interesting people. Do your part and stop littering! If you see someone else litter, don’t let it stand. You need not be confrontational and say anything at all; you can simply pick up their garbage, right in front of them, and show how it’s done. Action speak louder…
If you know of a place where litter is an issue, the Sanitation Department can help. Promptly report areas where there’s illegal dumping or a rapidly-growing pile of litter to 311. Alternatively, you can use the free BP Assist app to request a “litter patrol” be dispatched immediately. Or, click here to make a report right now.
Councilman Matteo and Borough President Oddo have done their part to make these litter patrols a reality. What we all need are vigilant eyes, and attentive minds, Staten Islanders who do not tune it all out, residents who instead respond to the challenge by seeking help.
The Borough Hall Clean Team, expanded more than 50% by Boro President Oddo, collaborates with the Center for Alternative Sentencing and Employment (CASES), working tirelessly to pick up trash, trim unruly weeds, and keep Our Island’s public spaces clean, from April to November. But what about from November to April? Without doing your part, it’s inevitable that we’re going to be living om an island that looks more like a total mess than someplace we can be happy to bring people from beyond Staten Island over the water to visit and check out. Here’s a map of sites cleaned up since 2014:
Project One, an island company, also works with the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce to remove trash. Many private businesses do their part by keeping the area around their premises clean. Operation Clean Sweep provided brooms and pans donated to the Borough President’s office to local businesses.
Did it work? Considering that the supplies were disbursed rapidly, no one can argue that it was a good idea. (https://www.statenislandusa.com/gameofthrowns.html) Council Members Matteo (Mid-Island) and Borelli (South Shore) have their own clean up crew associated with the non-profit Where to Turn. Additionally, various other nonprofits, including the Assertive Kids Foundation, help periodically with cleanups of our island’s woodlands, parks, sidewalks, and streets.
Empire State Bank “adopted” the New Dorp Train Station area. Maybe your business can find its own area to adopt. If you’re a student, or just a concerned Islander, you can informally adopt a site and just make its cleanliness your responsibility without notifying anyone. Cleaning up is an activity that’s free for everyone to engage in, and there’s a great sense of accomplishment that goes along with seeing a place devoid of trash that was formerly a giant mess, a place that you cleaned up with the aid of nothing more than your own hands, gloves, and a few trash bags.
If you’re mad because fifteen year olds can’t drive or vote, do your part by cleaning up! Quite likely, you care deeply about the environment, but don’t neglect your own neighborhood and focus only on big issues beyond your reach! Don’t feel powerless; do your part and join in. It’s actually a lot of fun. The same goes if you’re retired and looking for something to do that helps others. What could be more helpful than a clean-up effort you organize with neighbors, or even on your own?
Regardless of your age, just keep in mind that you want to avoid getting struck by a moving vehicle! Clear trash with extreme caution; make sure you have reflective clothing on if cleaning around dusk, or later. And, if you need to place a cone temporarily in the street where you’re cleaning, no one is going to be mad.
Litter is a quality of life issue. There’s no way that a sidewalk or curb strewn with trash helps any of us feel very good about where we live, work, and play. There’s just something inherently demoralizing about walking past piles of garbage. It makes sense; think back to how your parents would implore you to clean your room. Some of our readers need only think back twenty minutes! Why do parents say such things?
Is it because parents seek to annoy and keep us constantly occupied with activities that we don’t enjoy? No; not at all. It’s because being older and wiser, our guardians seek to help us have the best lives possible. And, living your life among disorder and chaos cannot being peace of mind or feel very good. Again, think of your own home. Chances are, if you’re an adult, you don’t keep your place like a trash heap.
So, it’s for our own good that we take this seriously. If you eat some French fries, find a garbage pail, rather than tossing the packaging on the ground. Finished chewing your gum? Throw it away! It’s your responsibility to carry your trash until you find a pail. If you need to duck into a local store and ask if you can discard your mess, chances are, the store owner or manager will be far happier than if you causally threw that same garbage on the ground in front of their place. If there are no stores, put your gum in a piece of paper, or place your empty bag of snack chips in your school bag. For now.
In the end, if we’re homeowners, it’s not only a good idea to clean up, it’s actually the law. The “Clean the 18” campaign helped bring awareness to NYC Administrative Code, Section 16-118(2)(a), which clearly places the burden of cleaning up eighteen inches from the curb into the street, on the homeowner, or person in charge of a building. There are fines for littering, but why should that be what motivates us? There are so many reasons why it’s good to keep your space clean, the last thing that should motivate a person is the threat of being fined. Yet, if you fail to do your part, keep in mind that the fines are a possible outcome, and working just to pay fines seems foolhardy.
Also, consider that littering is also an action that the police can fine you for in NYC. It’s not just rude, it’s illegal. Even if you get away with just a warning, rather than a fine, you’re taking the police from more important duties, all because you’re choosing to be selfish and do something that negatively affects your whole community. And you. It’s not like what you do when you litter doesn’t affect you. You’re going to have to walk past your own trash. Sometimes daily.
Even if you feel no remorse, you’ve just added a little bit toward making your own environment a nasty place. And, whether or not you realize it, that affects you. Your internal environment isn’t completely separate from what’s around you. “No Man is an Island,” was a phrase first penned by John Donne. We hardly think about the fact that someone was the first to say this, but likely, people have realized this all along. We all seek to be part of a larger community, and helping to build our communities by keeping them tidy is a worthwhile goal, for anyone, any age. It’s also a great way to exercise your personal power, to make a difference in a way everyone will notice.