Governor McKee and First Lady Lead Litter Pick-Up in Middletown on Earth Day

In a symbolic gesture to mark Earth Day, Governor Dan McKee and First Lady Susan McKee, alongside state and local officials, participated in a litter pick-up event in Middletown today. The gathering not only served to commemorate Earth Day but also celebrated the ongoing efforts of the Litter-Free Rhode Island initiative spearheaded by the Governor and his wife.

The event highlighted the launch of a new microgrant program aimed at boosting local volunteer clean-up efforts and beautification projects. This initiative, a collaboration between the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank (RIIB), received significant support, including a $100,000 allocation proposed by Governor McKee and included in the fiscal year 2024 budget.

Since its announcement in March, the microgrant program has garnered substantial interest, with over 70 groups receiving grants, most requesting the maximum amount of $750. These grants are intended to support litter pick-ups timed around Earth Day and other volunteer projects set to be completed by June 15, 2024.

Governor McKee expressed his enthusiasm for the program, stating, “Especially on Earth Day, our actions should speak louder than our words. The First Lady and I are thrilled with the work being done through the Litter-Free Rhode Island program to make our state cleaner each and every day.”

First Lady Susan McKee emphasized the importance of volunteerism, stating, “Even a small act can make a huge impact, and by taking the Litter-Free Rhode Island pledge, not only do we support our environment, but we set an example for our children, grandchildren, and generations of Rhode Islanders.”

The microgrant funds are earmarked for various purposes, including equipment, marketing, volunteer support, and debris removal. Eligible applicants included schools, community groups, and municipal government divisions, all required to demonstrate their nonprofit status.

Applications were evaluated based on their relevance to local environmental and community interests, potential learning opportunities, long-term impact, and demonstrated need. DEM will monitor the effectiveness of grant spending through documentation requirements, ensuring accountability and impact.

Terry Gray, Director of DEM, highlighted the multifaceted impact of litter, stating, “Litter is ugly, expensive, and illegal, degrades natural areas, injures and kills wildlife, and is a self-perpetuating problem. However, by controlling our own behavior, we can control litter.”

William Fazioli, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank, underscored the importance of the microgrant program in reducing litter and enhancing community engagement, stating, “Through these grants, we’re helping communities across the state step up to clean up litter which can clog storm drains and other important infrastructure.”

The initiative extends beyond microgrants, with the Department of Transportation (DOT) hiring 19 new state groundskeeper positions and implementing a ‘Trashboard’ database to track litter pick-up efforts. Additionally, the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has incorporated anti-litter material into the Rhode Island State Driver’s manual and plans to distribute reusable ‘litter bags’ to new car registrants.

As of April 22, 31 cities and towns have passed or are in the process of passing resolutions to commit to the Litter-Free Rhode Island initiative, reflecting a widespread commitment to cleaner communities.




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