Half a billion pieces of litter on Pennsylvania roads, study finds

WGAL News 8
Cigarette on road, litter, roads

There is a lot of litter on Pennsylvania roads, according to newly released research by the state’s Department of Environment Protection, PennDOT and Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful.

“Pennsylvania has a littering problem that cleanup efforts alone can’t solve. Litter undercuts our quality of life and the health of our waters and soil. It shortchanges community improvements and economic development, as funds that could otherwise be spent more productively instead go to trash cleanup,” DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell in a prepared statement.

The numbers, which was the state’s first comprehensive look at litter, concluded that more than 502 million pieces of litter are on Pennsylvania roadways. Here were the top items discarded:

– Cigarette butts: 37 percent

– Plastics: 30 percent (plastic film and beverage containers were most common)

The study found that 29.3 million beverage containers alone littered state roads.

The leading causes of all the litter were motorists and pedestrians, followed by improperly secured truck loads.

The cost to clean up is high. It’s estimated that Pennsylvania cities collectively spend more than $68 million a year to clean, educate, enforce laws and prevent litter. Those numbers come from a related study that look at nine Pennsylvania cities.

PennDOT spends around $13 million annually to pick up litter along state-owned highways.

“Cleanup is not a sustainable strategy,” said acting PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian, “and the enormous amount of resources committed to it mean less funding for other transportation uses, such as improving roads.”

You can learn more about the Pennsylvania Litter Research Study here.

“We now have data from the most comprehensive statewide litter research effort ever conducted in Pennsylvania,” said McDonnell. “DEP is committed to working with our partners to use it strategically to shift the state’s approach to litter prevention, so that Pennsylvanians may gain community, economic and environmental advantages they’re now sacrificing to litter cleanup.”

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