They don’t call us the Garden State for nothing. New Jersey is known throughout the United States for having the best bagels, pizza, beautiful beaches, diverse cultures, and Bruce Springsteen. Despite our notable culture, New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the United States, which makes us a prime dumping ground for toxic and non-toxic waste. Litter includes waste that is intentionally and unintentionally disposed of by humans. Litter and illegal dumping, negatively impacts and threatens humans, the environment, economic development, the safety of our water and climate. Litter also carries a significant financial cost and requires New Jersey tax dollars to cleanup.

Litter, universally known as improperly managed waste, exists in every aspect of our life in New Jersey. As litter breaks down in the environment, by-products, chemicals and microparticles are released, affecting the quality of life for humans, wildlife, and our environment. Nearly 350 million plastic bags were littered on United States roadways and waterways in 2020 and it takes around 1,000 years for one plastic bag to degrade in a landfill. According to the U.S Environmental Protection Agency, Americans use around 380 billion plastic bags and wraps each year, only about 5% are recycled. Littering is a major concern not only for New Jerseyans but for all of mankind.

Although, the COVID-19 pandemic reduced transportation and air pollution, it exacerbated littering and illegal dumping across the State. As New Jersey went into lockdown, the increased use of plastics and other disposable and perishable products, ultimately generated tons of additional waste. Studies estimate 207.1 million PPE items were littered along United States roadways and waterways in 2020 and was twice as likely to be found along waterways as it was along roadways.

It is without a doubt that littering stems from the individual level and overtime has become a social issue that a significant portion of society condones. Unfortunately, many individuals view littering as socially acceptable especially because punitive action is hard to implement when you can’t track each person who litters. Litter and illegal dumping are a shared responsibility and we must do our part collectively to ensure New Jersey public lands are free of litter and illegal dumping.

New Jersey’s Operation to Tackle Litter Abatement

Despite the unfathomable amount of litter and waste that resides in the Garden State, litter rates are declining in New Jersey and across the nation. New Jersey Clean Communities Council, Inc. is a 501(c3) nonprofit that works closely with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the New Jersey Department of Treasury to administer the Clean Communities Program. Created in 1986 by the passage of the Clean Communities Act, the New Jersey Clean Communities Program is a statewide, comprehensive litter abatement program that provides awareness, resources, and funding to educate New Jerseyans around litter and illegal dumping. The Clean Communities Program is funded by placing a tax on manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors that produce litter-generating products. The Clean Communities Program Fund generates about $20 million each year and disburses funds to municipalities, counties and state parks services.

The Clean Communities Act provides guidelines on the use of funds, mandating that municipalities and counties are encouraged to use grants to pay for litter abatement programs and supplies, badly needed equipment purchases, enforcement, activities, and education. The Clean Communities Council also administers New Jersey’s Adopt-a-Beach and Adopt-a- Highway programs. A visual litter study, conducted in 2019 by Environmental Resources Planning, LLC. reported litter along streets and highways across New Jersey have been reduced by 53% due to effective litter abatement programs in place. The Clean Communities program is engaging and educating younger generations to help mold positive, long-term behaviors against discarding litter. New Jersey is addressing litter problems across the State and providing solutions and funding to help mitigate climate change and strengthen our environment for future generations.

The New Jersey Clean Communities Council will also play an important role as the state implements the ban against single-use plastic and paper bags as well as disposable food containers and cups made from polystyrene foam. The group has launched a Bag Up NJ campaign, which urges consumers to use re-usable bags when they shop.

Cleaning Up Communities in Hudson County

Hudson County is leading the State in common-sense pollution regulations and providing innovative and successful litter abatement programs that engage the public and keep the county clean. The Hudson County Improvement Authority Clean Communities Program works with not-for-profit organizations, schools, municipalities, and faith communities in Hudson County to perform Cleanup Projects throughout the county. These litter cleanup activities and programs are funded by mini grants to improve communities and enhance the quality of life in Hudson County. The Hudson County Improvement Authority offers clean-up assistance for any project.

Projects funded through the Hudson County Improvement Authority Clean Communities Program would be responsible for choosing a site, providing volunteers to perform the cleanup as well as filing a report after the project is completed. Final reports should also include photos of the cleanup event.

Organizations interested in performing a Cleanup Project in their communities to be funded by the HCIA should contact the HCIA regarding available grants and deadlines for applications at (201) 324-6222, ext. 3257. Be sure to follow the Hudson County Improvement Authority on social media @hcia_online and also check out our website at for more information on how to host your own community cleanup in Hudson County.

Hudson County has also been one of the first municipalities in New Jersey to reduce litter rates and implement plastic bag regulations. In January of 2019, the City of Hoboken passed an ordinance banning single-use plastic carry-out bags at retail and food establishments. Shortly after, Jersey City began enforcing a similar city-wide ban of single-use plastic carryout bags in June 2019. Secaucus joined Jersey City, Bayonne and Hoboken, becoming the fourth municipality in Hudson County to ban single-use plastic bags.

Reducing Litter Rates Starts With You!

As a New Jerseyan, you can reduce litter rates by educating, engaging, and providing awareness around pollution and waste in your community. Continued education and targeted awareness programs, like the Hudson County Clean Communities Program provide a strong foundation for change as well as facilitating a behavioral switch around litter and pollution in younger generations. When innovative solutions are put into action, New Jerseyans can ensure a safe, healthy, equitable quality of life for everyone.

Below find several ways to reduce the rate of litter in your community:

  • Follow your local community’s social media platforms and signup for newsletters to stay informed about upcoming cleanup events and opportunities to decrease litter rates
  • Increase your education around recycling protocol and litter regulations in your community
  • Be aware of the locations of trash receptacles and appropriate waste locations for trash
  • Organize a community cleanup with your friends, family, community organizations or colleagues
  • Schedule and conduct meetings with elected officials to discuss the importance of waste management and funding community and statewide cleanup programs to continue education and engagement activities

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