SUSSEX COUNTY-More than $270,000 is coming to Sussex County to clean up litter, with $231,000 going directly to the county's 17 municipalities under a N.J. Department of Environmental Protection grant program. The "Clean Communities" program, begun in 1985 and renewed in 1991 and 2002, this year is distributing $9 million to each of the state's 21 counties and 559 municipalities. The money is collected through fees levied on businesses that produce or distribute products likely to accumulate as litter, such as beer cans and bottles; cigarettes and their packaging; tires; fast-food containers; and soft drink cans and bottles. The NJ DEP disburses 90 percent of the funds collected to counties and municipalities to fund cleanup programs. The remaining 10 percent goes help keep state parks clean. The funds are allocated on a formula based on population and road mileage. As Sussex County's most populous town and one of its biggest in area, Vernon receives the largest grant, $35,959, followed by Sparta at $22,292 and Wantage at $21,651. (See accompanying table.) Sussex County government will receive $41,378. "This funding provides counties and towns the means to combat litter such as providing more trash cans and conducting public education programs to reduce litter," said Acting Governor Richard J. Codey in a written statement. Communities may choose how the Clean Communities grants will benefit their residents the most. "As long as the community uses the grant award for programs geared toward achieving clean communities, the range of suitable activities is very broad," says Karen Hershey of the DEP. Depending on local needs, a community may use the funds to develop and present public education programs that encourage citizens not to litter. Also popular are adopt-a-highway or park campaigns and graffiti cleanups. Some communities rent or buy cleanup equipment such as trash "picker-uppers" (similar to pooper scoopers), safety vests, trash receptacles, gloves and trash bags. Hardyston Township is using the remainder of its 2004 Clean Communities dollars to cover half the cost of bear-proof Critter Can garbage containers for residents who purchase them. The municipality is offering the cans to residents for $20, less than half their normal retail price of $55. Since the program began in February, residents have ordered more than 350 cans, and the orders are still coming in. "Bears certainly cause major littering problems when they raid garbage cans and strew the paper trash," said township manager Marianne Smith. "Not only do these garbage help cut down on litter in our community, they also discourage bears from foraging in the garbage for a fast-food meal. The Critter Can program is environmentally sound, and it is fiscally wise, because it will cut down on the time police have to spend responding to complaints about bears." Hardyston also uses the Clean Communities funds to support the efforts of nonprofit groups, such as Scout troops or sports teams, by giving grants to organizations that commit to keeping a park or other area clean throughout the year. "Cleanup day can be a gala event for those who participate," said Smith. Each recipient county or municipality must file statistical reports with the Clean Communities Council to provide evidence of what they have done in the way of litter abatement, and to show how well their programs have succeeded. "Clean Communities projects improve the quality of life in towns across the state," Campbell said. "Residents can help keep New Jersey clean by volunteering during litter pickups and disposing of their trash properly."