Pa. to ramp up litter-prevention measures

Go Erie – State DEP announces results of litter survey and formation of state-led work group.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection on Wednesday released the results of the first statewide comprehensive research on litter, the cost of cleaning it up and attitudes toward litter.

The agency also announced the formation of a state-led work group to shift Pennsylvania’s strategy from cleanup to prevention.

Field research results indicate more than 502 million pieces of litter on Pennsylvania’s roads. The most common items are cigarette butts (37 percent) and plastics (30 percent), with plastic film and beverage containers most prevalent.

There are an estimated 29.3 million beverage containers alone on the roads. Motorists and pedestrians are leading sources of litter, followed by improperly secured truck loads.

Cities collectively spend more than $68 million annually on cleanup, education, enforcement and prevention efforts related to litter and illegal dumping, according to a related study of nine cities statewide commissioned by Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful.

Eighty percent of costs go specifically to cleanup, with Philadelphia spending more than $36 million; Pittsburgh and Allentown spending more than $2 million; Harrisburg, Lancaster and Reading spending more than $1 million; and Altoona, Erie and Scranton spending hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.

PennDOT spends more than $13 million per year on staff and resources to pick up litter along state-owned roadways.

The Pennsylvania Litter Research Study was conducted in 2018-19 with funding from DEP, PennDOT, Keep America Beautiful, and Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful.

The study included on-the-ground litter counts in 180 locations statewide, a random phone survey of 500 residents, and a forum where 120 community, business and government leaders shared their views on litter impacts and what should be done to end littering.

The DEP, PennDOT, and Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful will form a work group of state government agencies, local governments, and industry and community leaders to use the research results to develop and carry out a plan to reduce littering in Pennsylvania.

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