South Jersey is still struggling to overcome the effects of Hurricane Sandy.

Coastal towns are busy trying to repair beaches and bulkheads damaged by the storm. Shore businesses are doing everything they can to be up and running for Memorial Day weekend.

Owners of damaged homes are still cleaning up, arranging to have their houses raised to comply with new flood elevations - or just trying to figure out exactly what to do.

And there are the thousands of renters, at the lower end of the economic scale, still struggling to put their lives back in order. (In Atlantic City, renters accounted for 65 percent of all applicants for Federal Emergency Management Agency aid. Of those 5,975 renters, 84 percent reported annual income of less than $30,000.)

So the work continues. The problems are real - and serious.

Which makes us feel a little uncomfortable about bringing up another, admittedly less serious, problem in the aftermath of Sandy: Litter.

The storm, of course, flooded low-lying areas everywhere, and when the water receded, every kind of trash you can imagine was left behind. Large pieces of docks. Hundreds of thousands of plastic bottles. Old bicycles and children's toys. Random articles of clothing. You name it.

Some of it looked as if it had been in the marshes or bays for years. New Jersey has long had a litter problem, and marshy areas were full of trash, most of which was hidden. But Sandy brought it all to the surface. And, frankly, most towns have had more pressing issues to deal with and have not given much attention to basic cleanup in the wake of Sandy.

The good news is that the state Department of Environmental Protection announced last week that it is distributing $18.3 million in Clean Communities anti-litter funds. The Clean Communities program is funded by a tax on manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors that produce litter-generating products.

The money is distributed based on the number of housing units and miles of municipally owned roads in a town. The DEP is awarding $16.2 million to 559 eligible municipalities, and an additional $2.1 million will be shared by the state's 21 counties.

The money can be used to purchase litter-collection equipment and run anti-littering educational programs, as well as to fund cleanups. But considering the litter problem created by Sandy, we would urge towns to focus on cleanups this year.

Litter breeds more litter. When people see a littered area, they are more inclined to litter in that spot. That makes it all the more critical to clean up Sandy's trash as another summer season approaches.

No, it's not the most pressing and certainly not the most tragic post-Sandy problem. But South Jersey won't be fully recovered from Sandy until we clean up the detritus she left behind.

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