WEST ORANGE, NJ — On National Cleanup Day on Saturday, Sept. 15, West Orange residents and officials came together to eliminate litter in the community. The national initiative, now in its second year, aims to gather people around the country and encourage them to create a clean environment. The event is led by the nonprofit National Cleanup Day, an organization that promotes cleaning the outdoors. This is the first year West Orange participated in the National Cleanup Day, which coincided with the #KeepWestOrangeClean initiative. As part of the day, participating residents fastened “Show Some Love” signs on trash cans around town.
“This campaign to activate the community to get out and clean up our streets started with my 9-year-old at the end of last year as we were trying to find tasks to kill time,” Perry Bashkoff, West Orange’s social media coordinator, said in an email to the West Orange Chronicle on Sept 13. “We went to the dollar store and got a few of those trash-grabber things, some garbage bags and started cleaning up near Stagg Field. We posted a picture of the bag of trash to one of the local social media groups and the response from the community was amazing! People were interested in how they could get involved. Then the snow happened.”
When the ground finally thawed out earlier this year, Bashkoff and his sons made cleaning up in West Orange a weekly event. They got neighbors and business owners involved and have been keeping West Orange clean each weekend.
“We got back out on the streets and started making it a weekly Saturday morning bonding and cleanup session for myself and my boys,” Bashkoff said. “Along the way, we met amazing local business owners who would bring us bottles of water, thanking us for what we were doing and several community members have gotten out to participate as well, including West Orange High School Principal Hayden Moore and his family. The message is simple: Spend an hour a week cleaning up litter in and around town to keep our streets clean and welcoming.”
To localize the event, Bashkoff worked with Mayor Robert Parisi and the Department of Public Works to put the signs on trash cans. Local officials took to the streets Sept. 15 to pick up trash and spread awareness about keeping the environment clean. Bashkoff hopes it will continue past the official cleanup day, though.
“We’ve placed signs on all of the trash cans on Main Street and in our parks to remind people to keep our streets and parks clean,” Bashkoff said. “We’ve invited police, fire, school, Town Council, organizations, Boy Scouts and sports teams. This is an ongoing campaign so hopefully this is just the beginning!”
Representatives from National Cleanup Day did not return a request for comment by press time on Sept. 18.
“It has been great to see all of the positivity this campaign has brought to the community,” Parisi said in a press release on Sept. 11. “What started as a few residents picking up trash on a weekend, has turned into a social media campaign that has everyone wanting to get involved. It’s contagious and a no-brainer. Keeping our streets clean and welcoming helps our residents, local businesses and the environment.”
Photos Courtesy of Perry Bashkoff