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Canal Walk Resident Is One-Man Street Cleaner

Gene Grosso has been picking up litter on streets and in parks for the past several years. (Photo: Aanya Tolat).

By Aanya Tolat, Special to the Reporter

For the past seven years, Gene Grosso, a resident of Canal Walk, has been taking the time to clean up the litter on several different streets. From 4:30-5 a.m., four days a week, he goes to the streets wearing a reflective vest and carrying a flashlight.

Grosso spent most of his life running and working on the street for the Public Works Department in Raritan. When he moved near Mettlers Road and saw all the warehouses and litter, he wanted to do something about it.

He and his brother collected cans and plastic to give to Lyons Veterans Hospital, where the tabs of different cans would be used by the veterans. Collecting over 20 full bags of plastic every week (80 bags in a month), Grosso has been cleaning up and helping veterans at the same time.

Grosso said he has seen lots of different trash strewn around the roads and in many other places.

“There is trash in the parks, too,” he said. “Like in Colonial Park, there will be a trash can five feet away from where someone is having a party. Instead of just walking a few extra feet to dispose of their garbage properly, people just throw everything on the ground!”

Grosso said he has seen landscapers throwing plastic bags full of leaves near the Delaware & Raritan Canal, and people dumping mattresses and furniture on Randolph Road.

There were several instances where people’s recycling bins fell over, but no one fixed them and put the trash back inside, he said. On top of that, all the waste is going into the water, he said.

The issue is worsening, too, Grosso said.

“The landscapers used to collect cans and bottles that were lying around, but they don’t do that anymore,” Grosso said. “They even used to give prisoners an opportunity to reduce their sentence by picking up litter or trash, but I haven’t seen them doing that lately, either.”

He said that another factor that makes it harder to clear up as much litter as in the past is that there have been a lot of weeds, so it has been harder to find the trash and pick it up.

Grosso said that so many people who talk about “going green” are just throwing things away on the street. But there are also others taking steps in the right direction by collecting trash near the canal.

These people keep clearing up tons of plastic, but it all keeps coming back since the issue can’t be completely solved until a lot more people put in the effort to keep the roads clean, he said.

Grosso’s work is appreciated by his neighbors.

Some of Grosso’s neighbors offer their trash cans if his bags get full, bikers thank him as they pass, and people thank him from their car windows, he said. He also clears the parking lot and the area near a local deli, and they repay him for his kind acts by providing him with anything he needs.

If one can learn one thing from Grosso’s hard work and dedication, it should be this: Take the extra few steps to the trash can. Take the time to recycle, and if you see any trash that you can pick up, do it. Every little thing matters when working to fix an issue that exists on such a large scale.

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