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Tuesday, March 12, 2024

For $750 and a ton of paperwork, McKee thinks we can end litter in Rhode Island

Celebrate Earth Day with pitiful exercises in futility

By Will Collette

I hate trash. I hate it so much that I'd like to revive chain-gangs of litter offenders in prison orange jump-suits working to pick litter up off the roadsides.

But I am also dismayed at how litter pick-up is used to substitute for real action to clean up the environment. We do this in Charlestown every year, usually sparked by the Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA Party) who would rather put volunteers to work cleaning around beachfront properties than take action on real pollution problems.

My motivation for airing this perennial gripe is a news release from our inept Governor Dan McKee. McKee and his wife Susan want to solve Rhode Island's litter problem by doling out micro-grants to municipalities, schools and non-profits of "up to $750" for litter projects.

The money can be spent on equipment as well as t-shirts, food and water for the volunteers. All grant applicants must do is prove their non-profit status, keep meticulous records and then report to DEM with "documentation including photographs, the number of participants, and the amount of material collected as proof that the grant award was effectively spent as proposed."

Gee, if only McKee would require similar accountability from state contractors who rip the state off to the tune of millions. But woe befall those who take the $750 and can't come up with a suitable scrapbook showing how they spent the money.

The deadline is March 29 if you are desperate enough to take such a pittance with so many strings attached.

If McKee was serious, he would fund more police to actually catch litterers, or would push a bottle bill, a ban on nips, a producer liability law, curbs on plastic packaging and stop fooling around with impractical token measures.

If you think I'm being unfair to Dan, read on to see his news release, in full and verbatim, below the fold. It contains all the information and links you need if you want to go for the $750. If you disagree with me that this is a misguided effort, send Progressive Charlestown an e-mail.

Governor McKee, First Lady Announce Litter-Free Rhode Island Microgrant Program Aimed at Empowering Community Groups to Conduct Local Trash Pick-Ups Across State

Published on Friday, March 08, 2024

PROVIDENCE, RI — Governor Dan McKee, First Lady Susan McKee, and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) today are announcing the establishment of the Keep Rhode Island Litter Free Microgrant Program through which community groups that are organizing local volunteer trash pick-ups and beautification projects may be eligible to receive awards of up to $750 to help these initiatives succeed. 

Capitalized by a $100,000 line item proposed by Governor McKee and included in the enacted fiscal year 2024 budget, the program grew out of the Governor’s and First Lady’s Litter-Free Rhode Island initiative, which launched in 2022. 

Participating groups may use the grant awards to conduct litter pick-ups that are timed to be held around Earth Day, which falls on April 22 this year, or other volunteer clean-ups and beautification projects if they are completed by June 15. 

 “The First Lady and I are thrilled to announce this microgrant program — both to strengthen existing volunteer litter collection efforts and to encourage all Rhode Islanders to be stewards of our natural places and take personal responsibility for our trash,” said Governor Dan McKee. “We hope these grants will give a big boost to Earth Day clean-ups and all efforts to make Rhode Island a cleaner, better place.” 

 “Volunteerism lies at the heart of our program, and we appreciate and celebrate all volunteers who contribute their time and talent to beautifying communities across the state,” said First Lady Susan McKee. “Even a small role can make a huge impact. Municipalities, businesses, families, and individuals can show their support for ending litter by taking the pledge to Keep Rhody Litter-Free.” 

 The funds may be used for equipment (work gloves, trash bags, and trash pickers), marketing (t-shirts, posters, signage, etc.), food and/or water for volunteers, and debris removal (dumpster and hauling fees, etc.). Schools, community groups, and municipal government divisions such as departments of public works and parks and recreation may apply, but all applicants must provide proof of their nonprofit status. There is no monetary match requirement. 

 DEM will accept applications through close of business Friday, March 29. Organizations are encouraged to submit their applications electronically via

 “Litter is ugly, expensive, and illegal, degrades natural areas, injures and kills wildlife, and is a self-perpetuating problem because the more litter that’s in an area, the less guilty people feel when throwing their trash out the window of their car,” said DEM Director Terry Gray. “However, at the same time, by controlling our own behavior, we can control litter. DEM is pleased to contribute to the Governor’s and First Lady’s response and in so doing, promoting conservation and fostering a sense of ecological stewardship. We remind community organizations to get their applications in by March 29!” 

 Applications will be evaluated on relevance to local environmental/community interests, increased community learning opportunities, long-term environmental/beautification impact, and demonstrated need.

Once the trash pick-up is complete, DEM requires documentation including photographs, the number of participants, and the amount of material collected as proof that the grant award was effectively spent as proposed.