Cleaning Up

By Ken Mammarella

Nearly 50 smart recycling containers will be installed this summer in public spaces in downtown Wilmington’s Business Improvement District and the Wilmington Riverfront, thanks to a $250,000 Keep America Beautiful grant awarded to Keep Delaware Beautiful in partnership with the City of Wilmington, Downtown Visions and the Riverfront Development Corporation. 

The new receptacles have heat and weight sensors — that’s why they cost about $5,000 each — to monitor and report their fullness to Wilmington’s Department of Public Works for pickups, says Julie Miro Wenger, executive director of Keep Delaware Beautiful, an affiliate launched in 2017. 

They’re sized for beverage containers — plastic, can and glass — and will be co-located with existing trash receptacles. The purpose of the program is to encourage visitors and residents to separate their beverage containers from their trash and encourage recycling in public places. The recycling receptacles will include messaging that reminds people to only use the recycling receptacles for beverage containers.

The containers are one of several new initiatives of Keep Delaware Beautiful, which stresses three goals on its website (KeepDelawareBeautiful.com): End littering, increase recycling and beautify the state.

Wenger is “super-excited” about a new partnership with Delaware Libraries that enables litter cleanup kits to be checked out from every public library statewide. The kits, which include two safety vests, two foldable litter grabbers and instructions, have been checked out 36 times since their April debut and are a safer, more back-friendly way to clean up roadways, parks and other areas. 

“We have been working with our elected officials to conduct community cleanups throughout the state, says Wenger. “We set a goal for ourselves to try and hold a community clean up with every state senator and state representative statewide. We’ve been fortunate that the Governor has played a vital role in bringing litter to the forefront of conversations. Making Delaware litter free is an actionable responsibility for every resident.”

In a litter assessment KDB conducted in 2018, it was determined that cigarette butts were the most littered item. To combat the problem, KDB has been partnering with beach communities, municipalities and restaurants and bars to offer free cigarette litter receptacles. In the month of May, Wawa aired a litter-awareness public service announcement in all its Delaware stores. The result: In one week 50,000 cigarette pocket ashtrays were distributed — the hope is they will reduce the frequency of cigarette butts being thrown out of car windows. 

In addition, four new KDB programs target schools, with the goal of developing young ecological stewards.

A poster contest for grades K-8 drew more than 500 entries. The contest, co-sponsored by the Delaware Department of Transportation, asked for drawings tied to Keep Delaware Beautiful’s three priorities, with three winners announced for each grade, getting gift cards worth $100, $50 or $25 — and litter pickup kits. The winning posters will be posted on the group’s site and promoted on social media.

The Litter Free School Zone asks for schools to conduct a litter clean up on their campus at least twice a year and, more importantly, teach “children that they have a responsibility to keep their campus and surroundings litter free. Our goal is to educate children at a young age so that they will not think of littering as an acceptable behavior.” Out of the 28 schools that have signed up, two — Holy Angels near Newark and W.B. Simpson Elementary in Wyoming — have done enough to receive signage designating them as Litter Free School Zones.

A $1,000 scholarship is going to a high school senior who has been active to improve Delaware’s beauty. The first winner is Kaitlyn Lynch of Saint Mark’s High School, who will be studying nursing at the University of Delaware. “Delaware is my home, and it is important to me that we keep it in the best shape possible,” she began her essay.

A free app developed in conjunction with Postlethwait Middle in Kent County allows for students across Delaware to track their volunteer hours on campus beautification, litter prevention and recycling work. (Many Delaware schools have community service requirements for graduation and this app helps track their progress, including the ability to capture before-and-after photos.)

Keep Delaware Beautiful has seven founding partners: The Delaware Solid Waste Authority, Waste Industries, Waste Management, the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Beverage Association, ShopRite, Wakefern (a cooperative that counts ShopRite among its members) and Wawa. 

“Supermarkets and convenience stores are wonderful partners in recycling,” says Wenger, who is also executive director of the Delaware Food Industry Council and the Delaware Association of Chain Drug Stores. “They’re the strongest stewards in many ways, phenomenal recyclers,” she adds, citing their work with all those cardboard boxes and plastic bags.