Reading Eagle – Litter is an issue that is costly, unsightly and creates a public health risk, Reading’s managing director told City Council Monday night.
Managing Director Pedro Cortes briefed council on the city’s efforts to address litter after several media reports about it.
“The issues of safe streets and clean streets are of the utmost importance to the administration,” Cortes said. “The problem of litter and illegal dumping is a major problem in all the communities (in a recent study). This is an issue that has plagued the city for years and the administration plans to tackle head on.”
The study from Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful concluded cities spend about four times as much to remove litter and dumped material as they do to prevent it from being generated in the first place. The study looked at nine Pennsylvania cities, including Reading.
The city spends more than $2 million to clean up litter and illegal dumping, and Cortes wants to change that.
“The news, while it appears bleak, is positive,” he said. “It’s a problem and a costly problem, but I want to allocate money from cleanup to prevention.”
Cortes said one noticeable difference is Reading spends only $29,000 in enforcement whereas Lancaster and Allentown spend $700,000 in enforcement.
“If we could dedicate some of that money that we do to cleaning to prevention and make sure enforcement is strengthened,” Cortes said. “But do it in a very customer-friendly and resident-centric way, I think change will happen.”
Cortes said that the city stopped participating in the state program Streets, Walkways, Education and Enforcement (SWEEP).
“That’s a program other cities are participating in and find effective,” he said.
Mayor Eddie Moran has said he wants to create an anti-littering task force. Cortes said the administration is stilling drawing up the task force.
Cortes added having community groups like Barrio Alegria and South of Penn help with litter are key.
“The good news is the communities have a sense of pride in the city,” he said. “If there is any saving grace, it is we are not alone. We are aware and we have staff that are dedicated to this.”