Several hundred residents helped collect trash and recycling on Saturday as part of the annual Team up to Tidy Up event, which this year promoted the township's "Nifty Fifty" initiative—Wyckoff's goal to increase residential recycling to 50 percent, up from 2009's 29 percent rate.
Residents cleaned up the local schools, as well as the Gardens of Wyckoff, Cornerstone Christian Church, Pulis Field, the ravine and other areas around the township.
Environmental Commission chairman Brian Bigler thinks the goal to reach 50 percent recycling is "definitely feasible" and that the message—promoted in schools and the media—has gotten out to residents.
Bigler, the commission's chair since 1996, said he was very pleased with the response Saturday. "The turnout looks great. It really shows the commitment the town residents have," he said.
Participating residents received T-shirts, gloves and steel water bottles for their work and support, and kids and adults alike looked quite pleased to sport their new goodies, as a wave of yellow shirts cornered litter all around town.
Although the focus of the event was to beautify the public facilities and green spaces, families know where it all starts—the home.
Resident Rina Giammanco said she and her family do their part to not put things to waste, and they learned from a source who knows a thing or two about efficiency—their nana, who lived through the Great Depression. Re-heating meals, not throwing away usable items and recycling are just a few of the methods the Giammancos are utilizing to do their part. Her children were eager to clean up Washington School, and Giammanco said she's proud to "teach the little ones to clean up and tidy up."
Wyckoff resident Brian Clapp, in attendance with his three sons, said his household uses composting as a cost-effective way to make a difference in the local environment.
Environmental Commission member Alex Cascardo heartily endorses the benefits of composting. He himself began composting after he realized how much refuse he and his family had been putting out per week—two cans of trash, in addition to recyclables and other items. After composting, he was able to reduce his trash output in half—one bag per week—and he stressed that the system is "simple, effective and a great way to promote better recycling."
A compost kit runs about $52 dollars and can be purchased at the Recycling/Conservation Center on West Main Street.
In addition to composting and recycling, Committeeman David Connolly also recommended mulching lawns, which he said provides rich soil and helps cut down on watering on hot summer days.
Residents can help the township reach its Nifty 50 goal by taking advantage of the single stream recycling system, which groups all dry paper, plastics (excludingstyrofoam), cans, glass bottles and jars into one collection; the Recycling Center, which collects everything from televisions and computers to branches and scrap metal; and also the Wyckoff DPW's curbside collection of large appliances.
Mayor Rudy Boonstra was quick to praise the residents for all their work on Saturday. "This is a great event we have," he said. "It's unique to our town where we give them (residents) a sense of what it means to keep the town clean of litter," and also fosters a "great sense of community."
Township officials estimate that boosting the recycling rate to 50 percent will save taxpayers as much as $100,000 a year. Wyckoff "really needs that money," said the mayor, who's optimistic the township can reach the goal in 2010. Besides, participating is "just good citizenship," he said.
Emphasizing recycling is just one of the measures the township is involved with to promote environmental sustainability while saving money. The Township Committee is looking into recycling oils to heat the DPW garage and possibly fuel some of their vehicles; the possibility of an alternate-fuel police cruiser; and the addition of solar panels to power public buildings.
The mayor also noted the enthusiasm of youths on Saturday, saying that the younger generations are often more attuned to the need to be more environmentally conscious. Volunteer Dan Kwalter, a Montclair resident and student at Montclair Kimberly Academy, agreed with the mayor's assessment. "It's impressive how many people really care," he said. "It's (recycling) now just something kids do, almost unconsciously," he said.
To find out more on the Nifty Fifty program, visit http://www.wyckoff-nj.com/NiftyFifty/index.html.