The city of Trenton is facing an increasingly serious problem: illegal dumping. Certain side streets and alleyways in Trenton’s neighborhoods have become hotbeds for opportunistic corporations and individuals looking to discard commercial and private waste without paying for proper removal. Working with the Neighborhood Improvement Association, led by Octavia Sutphin, TCNJ’s Center for Community Engaged Learning and Research joined in the initiative to help clean the city’s streets and bring an end to illegal dumping.
There have been a multitude of CEL days dedicated to this initiative. On these days, CEL students and Bonner Scholars have cleaned up garbage at these dumping sites and learned about the severity of the problem.
Students discussed the disheartening realization that the work they did each day would be quickly undone by the next group of individuals eager to dump their commercial waste, but that did not stop the students from getting the job done. One student stated: “Knowing that the alley will likely be trashed again is sad, but [it] shows that our work in helping [the community] is never over.”
Illegal dumping hurts the environment just as much as it hurts the people whose neighborhoods are being disrespected. Learning about this issue sparked some students’ thought into the environmental impact of these corporations. One participant stated, “I didn’t realize before that companies were the ones dumping debris and other trash at the site. [Seeing] it made me think about the things I usually buy (if they’re biodegradable, etc).” Are the companies that we support and buy products from aware of the severity of this problem? If so, how can they be held accountable for their actions? If not, how can they be educated?
TCNJ CELR will continue to support this initiative, leading CEL students in cleanup efforts. Eventually, The Neighborhood Improvement Association and TCNJ CELR hope to find an effective and permanent deterrent against corporate use of these illegal dumping sites.