WHYY and the Coopers Ferry Partnership launched an essay contest in November to give Camden residents a chance to envision a city without illegal dumping. This is one of the winning essays.
Illegal dumping — which decreases property value and demoralizes residents — is counterproductive to the redevelopment we see all over Camden. As a Camden resident, illegal dumping makes me feel annoyed, furious, and sad.
At a time when we are spending more time at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s essential that our surroundings are free of debris, hazardous materials, and waste. We all deserve to live in neighborhoods that look hopeful, not abandoned. Illegal dumping makes me sad because of all the hard work going into creating a city that’s prosperous and which provides new opportunities for residents.
If you take a drive down one of our major streets, like Broadway, the new Joint Health Science Center and other new construction make Camden a city you want to live in. And if you take a stroll by the waterfront, you’ll see new buildings, such as 11 Cooper Street Apartments and the Hilton Garden Inn. These are areas in Camden that give our residents hope and prove that Camden is, indeed, rising. I believe that our surroundings matter, or at least increase the probability of success.
The city of Camden spends up to $4 million annually cleaning up illegal dump sites. These funds could be better spent on initiatives that support and promote environmental health in our communities.
When you look around Camden, you can see that new trees have been planted in place of those removed. This is a great practice, and the act of planting a tree is a symbol of caring and hope for the future. Motivating more residents to get involved in these types of initiatives will help curb illegal dumping issues.
We need additional eyes on illegal dumping hotspots, along with a mechanism for continuous reporting of violations. These solutions will help reduce the costly problem and show residents that the city is committed to making a difference.
Putting up additional signage and imposing higher fines may discourage illegal dumping in Camden. And what if the city increased the number of curbside collections and informed the public of the licensed businesses that can accept the waste?
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Let’s face it: Solving the illegal dumping issue will not be easy or swift; however, collaborating and joining movements expedites the journey.
If the businesses, government officials, and the community come together and form a united front, we can slow illegal dumping down — and maybe even eliminate the problem over time.
Illegal dumping is a bad habit, and we must treat it as such. Let’s get rid of it together. If we work on it every day, you will soon see an improvement. That improvement will lift spirits, bring pride back to the neighborhoods, and encourage hope that living in an environment that is healthy produces happy and productive outcomes for everyone.
Maritza Alston is a Camden resident who works for the Willingboro School District as a guidance secretary. She has a background in management with 19 years of experience in the tax industry.