Carney talks trash

REHOBOTH — Gov. John Carney is on a mission: He wants to keep the First State litter free.

The governor kicked off the new clean-up campaign Tuesday at the Rehoboth Beach Bandstand.

Just how bad is the litter problem in Delaware?

More than 35,000 large bags worth, and that’s only what the Delaware Department of Transportation picks up from the sides of roads each year, according to DelDOT Secretary Jennifer Cohan.

DelDOT also cleans up 6,000 tires yearly and a few hundred appliances, she said.

Speaker of the House Peter Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth, quoted a 2018 study from Keep Delaware Beautiful that identified 6,000 pieces of litter per every mile of road with an emphasis on plastic bags, aluminum cans and cigarette butts, to name a few of the most found items.

To top it off, he said, two tons of trash were collected during the hours-long 2018 Coastal cleanup.

Gov. Carney outlined the new campaign.

“If you’re like me, you notice litter everywhere — in trees, on highway ramps, and along roads in all three counties,” he said. “When I took the oath of office to become Delaware’s 74th governor, I pledged not only to uphold our Constitution, but to ‘respect the right of future generations to share the rich historic and natural heritage’ of our state.

“From Trap Pond in Laurel to the Brandywine Creek in Wilmington, we live in a beautiful state, and we should take care to preserve that heritage.

“That’s why, in partnership with Keep Delaware Beautiful, we have launched a statewide campaign to encourage all Delawareans and visitors to not litter, to respect our natural heritage, and ‘Keep DE Litter Free.’”
Officials hope the campaign will increase awareness of littering around the state, reduce the problem and encourage local officials to pursue anti-littering policies.
That’s something that Milford City Councilmember Jason James is passionate about already.
“I would like to see a trash and debris ordinance. Otherwise, we’ll never really improve the city of Milford,” he said.

“We need enforcement on our side. When people come to Milford for work or to find a home, they don’t just go to where that home is. They will travel around the different neighborhoods in town. And if they see pockets of the town unkept, that’s a serious deterrent.”

As a lifelong Milford resident, Mr. James remembers a time when cleanups were organized more often and he wants to see that happen again.
He, his wife Pam and their family recently took matters into their own hands to address the issue.

Realizing a portion of his ward was cluttered with litter, he sought out the help of city leaders who stepped up to the challenge.

After walking through the Penn Fountain Walkway which takes passersby from the corner of NW 6th Street and Truitt Avenue to the Milford Plaza, he said he noticed how much trash was out there.

“The city manager invited Brad Dennehy, the Parks & Recreations director, to walk it with me,” he said.

From there, code enforcers asked property owners near the walkway to take care of their areas, and the city took care of the rest.

But that wasn’t all Mr. James and his family needed to do – they soon joined forces with Perdue Farms and the city of Milford for a communitywide cleanup Saturday, April 6, and then organized their own in the fourth ward for the next weekend.

“As long as I’m a council person, I’m going to promote this as loud as I can. This is my passion. I don’t like an unclean city,” he said.

“Jobs are important. Education is important. Safety is important. Along with that, is cleanliness.”

More community members also gather on Friday mornings to clean up the downtown Milford area to ensure a pleasant experience for visitors.
Speakers during the campaign announcement expressed hope in the volunteer work of local Delaware residents and described how that passion can team well with the new Keep DE Litter Free campaign to create a drastic change for the state.

Suzanne Thurman, executive director of the MERR Institute, championed the initiative in a press release that followed the announcement.

“MERR is very heartened that Governor Carney is taking this important initiative to stem the overwhelming problem of litter, which often ends up in the ocean and other waterways in the form of marine debris,” she said.

“This debris has the potential to harm and even kill marine mammals and sea turtles when it is ingested or entangles them, and contaminates the marine ecosystem as plastics photo-degrade, causing toxic chemicals to enter the water column and other organisms such as fish.”

The benefits to helping cleanup Delaware are countless, Mr. James said.

“I’m encouraged by the campaign. I know there’s commitment from the city level, and now the state level. There’s only one way to get it done and that’s to just do it,” he said.

For more information on the Keep DE Litter Free campaign, visit de.gov/litterfree.

Reach staff writer Jennifer Antonik at jantonik@newszap.com

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