The Pennsylvania Departments of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Transportation (PennDOT) today joined a community litter cleanup as part of the spring Pick Up Pennsylvania campaign and encouraged residents, local leaders and businesses across the state to do the same in their communities.
“Clean green spaces and waterways factor into our physical and mental health and enable the function of the ecosystem we depend on. They foster thriving communities that attract investment and support our recreation, tourism, and shopping economies. As the weather warms and we move outdoors, we benefit ourselves and our families by dedicating a morning or afternoon to Pick Up Pennsylvania,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell.
“PennDOT is responsible for maintaining 40,000 miles of roadway, roads that wind through some of the most beautiful, scenic landscapes in the country,” said PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian. “Our Adopt A Highway Volunteers are very important to this effort, but as litter mounts, our multi-million-dollar cleanup efforts must continue – again taking our valuable resources away from highway maintenance operations.”
Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful coordinates the statewide Pick Up Pennsylvania campaign each spring and fall. Gloves, trash bags and safety vests are provided by PennDOT and DEP. In addition, DEP and the Pennsylvania Waste Industries Association sponsor no- or low-cost trash disposal for registered events at participating landfills for the month of April.
Volunteering is easy. People can organize their own local event and register it at Pick Up Pennsylvania, or can sign up to participate in an already registered event. So far, 290 events are registered, with an estimated 21,000 volunteers.
“Cleanup activity is ramping up across the state. We’re honored to support the efforts of groups and individuals who are working hard to improve their communities,” said Shannon Reiter, president of Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful.
“The Department of Environmental Protection and PennDOT have been dedicated partners of our Pick Up Pennsylvania program since its inception and have been instrumental in the provision and distribution of program supplies. It is our privilege to work with such committed partners and volunteers. Each one of you is integral to our program’s success.”
Hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians, including Scout troops, businesses, watershed organizations, Trout Unlimited, Rod and Gun Clubs, and others, have participated in Pick Up Pennsylvania events for over 20 years.
Groups in PennDOT’s Adopt-A-Highway program, which involves volunteers cleaning roadsides year-round, are longtime participants. Adopt A Highway volunteers collect litter on a two-mile section of state highway at least twice a year. In 2021, the program had over 4,250 participating groups, more than 103,300 registered volunteers, and nearly 8,800 miles of adopted state-maintained roadways.
“We see the great impact that volunteers have in reducing the litter polluting our roads, neighborhoods, and parks,” McDonnel saidl. “It’s unimaginable where we’d be without the help of these best of Pennsylvanians. However, cleanup is a very costly approach to the litter problem in the long term. We must move out of reactive mode and be more proactive to prevent littering.”
Governor Tom Wolf announced the first ever statewide Littering Action Plan last fall. Reflecting the work of more than 100 stakeholders from state and local government, community organizations, businesses, and the legislature, the plan specifies many ways that all entities and individuals can prevent littering.
Education and outreach, infrastructure, laws and enforcement, and partnerships are key areas. For example, Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful has begun a study of the effectiveness of litter fine amounts and of challenges to enforcing anti-littering laws, and a team of state agencies is deeloping a public awareness campaign focused on littering prevention.
DEP is advancing a new rulemaking to provide convenient and affordable access to waste disposal and recycling services in rural areas of Pennsylvania, so that it is easier for all Pennsylvanians to responsibly dispose of their waste and recycling, rather than littering or illegal dumping.