Melham, Belleville accept nearly $70K grant for continued Green initiatives

Melham delivered an address as he and other mayors accepted the grants. Jaffee Communications

The Township of Belleville was awarded $68,947 in Clean Communities grants from the state Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) Solid Waste Division on May 12.

The grant is an increase from 2022, when Belleville received $61,740.

Clean Communities grants help municipalities and counties across New Jersey promote volunteer and paid clean-up events, purchase equipment, support enforcement activities and educational opportunities.

Belleville Mayor Michael A. Melham accepted a ceremonial check from the DEP May 12 at Kean University in Union, as part of a grand opening celebration of the New Jersey Clean Communities Council (NJCCC) office on the campus.

“When we work together to keep Belleville a clean community, it brings out the pride we all share in this great town,” Melham, who has served as a guest speaker for the NJCCC to share Belleville’s anti-litter programs, said. “We are grateful for the state funding and we will put it to good use making the town cleaner and greener.”

“Belleville has consistently been one of the top municipalities in the state in regard to fighting litter,” NJCCC Executive Director JoAnn Gemenden said. “We work closely with Belleville to ensure that state funds are continually maximized to develop and implement anti-litter education and programming in the township, as well as to coordinate local clean-ups.

“We are confident that Belleville will use the funding this year in a smart, strategic way to further expand the Clean Communities mission.”

At the heart of Belleville’s efforts to be cleaner and greener are the men and women who work in the Department of Public Works (DPW), Melham said

Led by Director Robert Welter, department personnel walk down Washington Avenue each day, picking up trash. They also maintain planters on Washington Avenue, watering the flowers that beautify the town.

The DPW also engages with the public on two annual cleanup projects and partners with schools on other events.

Welter said the grant from the NJDEP will help the department do even more.

“We typically put the grant money toward hiring some help for the summer to help clean up the parks and around places like Washington Avenue,” Welter said. “We also use the money to replace equipment that helps us keep Belleville looking good — equipment like weed whackers and leaf blowers.”

The work done by Welter and DPW personnel dovetails into the efforts by Belleville’s Green Team, which seeks to identify and implement projects that will benefit the community and encourage the town, home and business owners to invest in sustainable practices.

“The Green Team couldn’t find a better partnership than with the DPW,” the Green Team’s Gabrielle Bennett-Meany said. “Together we have expanded on community outreach and educational programs for our community to participate in.”

Over the past year, the Green Team has hosted community cleanups, recycling and waste reduction and other beautification projects.

This year’s total DEP funding represents a nearly $2.7 million increase from last year.

In total, the NJDEP awarded $21.4 million to eligible municipalities and $2.7 million to counties across the state to conduct cleanups, educate the public and enforce litter-related laws and ordinances. Allocations are based on statistical reports that outline the number of housing units and municipally-owned roadway mileage in a respective area.

Grants are funded by a legislated user-fee on manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors that produce litter-generating products.

“Local litter abatement programs are more important than ever as we strive to prevent roadway litter from getting into our waterways,” Gemenden said. “Clean Communities grants provide local governments with critical funds to help create a Litter Free NJ.”

NJCCC operates public awareness campaigns to educate the public, primarily youth, about the adverse environmental impacts of litter, especially on waterways.

The organization also helped facilitate the transition away from single-use plastic and paper bags with its Litter Free NJ campaign, using public service announcements and other outreach to remind residents to bring their own reusable bags when shopping, and to recycle plastic bags. These efforts have helped to significantly reduce the amount of plastic pollution in the state by an estimated 8 billion single-use bags per year.

Litter comes from many sources, such as people who carelessly toss away their trash, overflowing and uncovered garbage cans and construction sites. Litter is often dispersed by the wind and carried into stormwater collection systems, where it can clog drains causing flooding, harm wildlife and degrade the quality of the state’s surface waters.

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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.