This Arbor Day Stafford Marks 30 Years as Tree City USA

Spreading Word About Evils of Waste Plastic
By VICTORIA FORD | May 01, 2019
Artwork by: Maggie Brummer

Stafford Township — The theme of this year’s milestone 30th Arbor Day celebration in Stafford Township is PINES, for Plastics In Nature Endanger Species, with the goals to develop a better understanding of plastics’ impact on the environment and to draw attention to the importance of reducing plastic use.

The theme was chosen because the need for humans to change their relationship with plastic has never been more urgent.

Friday, May 3, at 3:45 p.m., the Ocean Acres Community Center will host the televised event, which includes speakers and free tree seedlings. Students from every school in Stafford submitted posters, poems and essays, which were judged based on their understanding of the theme. The Environmental Commission is also looking for sponsors for the various awards to be presented to the children. Any business, individual or group that wants to sponsor an award should contact Annemarie Sillitoe with the Department of Community Development at 609-597-1000, extension 8537.

“We got a lot of great feedback from the theme,” according to Environmental Commission Chair Sherry Roth. “There has been a lot of public outreach to educate the community with regard to the sustainability of our recycling program as it relates to the contamination of our recycling stream.”

The Arbor Day Foundation and the NJ Urban & Community Forestry Program officially recognized Stafford Township for the 30-year milestone accomplishment as a designated Tree City USA with an award presented at Rutgers University on Friday, April 26.

State Forester John Sacco thanked Mayor Greg Myhre “for all your hard work and for your commitment to managing your trees and forests. You should be very proud of the success you have achieved.”

In honor of Arbor Day, Roth wrote a manifesto.

“From getting stuck in nets to eating plastic they think is food, species worldwide are dying from material we made. Plastic is lightweight and durable, which makes it very useful to humans, but it takes a tremendous toll on the environment. Among the biggest threats consumers can control is single-use plastics such as bags, water bottles and straws.

“In addition to these items, about 40 percent of all plastic produced is for packaging, which is only used once and then discarded. Although plastics are very useful, especially for the medical industry, they are produced at too high a rate, without practical disposal options. They do not biodegrade in the environment; they release toxins when burned; and only a small percentage of plastics are recycled.

“Plastics accumulate in our forests, watersheds and oceans; furthermore, they float in water and are commonly ingested by animals. Plastics in the oceans do not biodegrade but create microplastics that bioaccumulate in the food chain.

“Many consumers believe they can offset their consumption of plastic products by recycling all their plastics, when in reality it has been estimated that worldwide only 9 percent of plastic is actually recycled.

“Here in Stafford Township, Public Works has recently erected signs reminding residents which items are acceptable for recycling. Placing items such as plastic bags, yogurt or food containers in the recycling stream wastes time and money, because they must be sorted out and disposed of in the garbage. If you have any questions about what items can or cannot be recycled, you can refer to the new app, Recycle Coach, or visit”

The town’s plastic bag ban, enacted last year, which prohibits local businesses from issuing single-use plastic bags to consumers, was motivated by a desire to protect the marine environment, Roth explained.

“About 90 percent of all shore birds have plastic in their stomachs. At least 267 different species of animals have suffered as a result of ingestion of or entanglement with plastic. The amount of plastic being produced is not a sustainable practice. Legislators and politicians are debating ways to reduce plastic use. This debate has gained national and global attention as communities around the world are deciding how they are going to manage their future waste production.

“Regardless of the laws and ordinances created to prohibit the use of plastic straws, cups, takeout containers, packaging, and single-use plastic bags, everyone should consider what they can do to reduce the amount of plastics that we generate. We should be cognizant of our footprint that we leave behind for generations to come. We can each make a difference and, together, help the survival of all species.”

Some examples of simple steps people can take: bring bags from home for shopping, use washable, reusable drinking cups and bottles, buy sustainable straws or give up straws altogether.

— Victoria Ford

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