The state Department of Transportation is partnering with the state Department of Environmental Protection, Pennsylvania State Police and Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful to not only clean up the litter, but to also shift the strategy from cleanup to prevention.
According to a recent release issued by PennDOT District 12 executive William Kovach, this initiative will include efforts related to public service announcements, education and enforcement.
“The government cannot solve this problem alone, so partnerships with businesses and individuals will need to be explored as well,” Kovach said in the release. “To provide stronger enforcement efforts, Act 62 was signed into law in June 2018. The laws add stronger fines and adds community service for first-time offenders.”
This act, he said, also creates Litter Enforcement Corridors, which allows for roadways with a high aesthetic or historic value to be marked with signs to notify motorists of additional fines that are doubled for motorists and tripled for commercial businesses.
According to the release, field research results indicate more than 502 million pieces of litter are on Pennsylvania’s roads. The most common items are cigarette butts (37%) and plastics (30%), 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.
This effort costs upwards of $13 million per year on staff and resources to clean litter along state-owned roadways. In District 12 all four counties have dedicated man hours to cleaning up on state roadways.
“Since January 1, in District 12’s four-county region (consisting of Greene, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland counties), we have spent 4,324.50 hours on litter pickup on our highways, which amounts to approximately $250,000,” Kovach said. “Since the start of the calendar year, statewide PennDOT has expended more than $3 million on litter pickup efforts.”
Volunteer groups who adopt highways through the Adopt-A-Highway program are valuable partners when it comes to helping remove litter in Pennsylvania, he said. Statewide, in 2019 more than 5,100 volunteer groups adopted 7,316 miles of state highways and collected upwards of 41,000 bags of litter performing their twice-yearly pickups requirements.
The Sponsor a Highway programs works by having a sponsor contract with a vendor to provide advertising along roadways, and in return cleans the sponsored roadway. Litter is cleaned up a minimum of six times per year.
Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful, DEP, and PennDOT have partnered for 15 years on an annual Pick Up Pennsylvania campaign. Many thousands of Pennsylvanians have volunteered in these local community projects, removing millions of pounds of trash.
“PennDOT greatly appreciates the help of these volunteers and organizations and the role they play in keeping Pennsylvania beautiful,” Kovach said. “We are actively recruiting participation in these efforts. Any organization or community group interested in helping in this important effort can contact the PennDOT county maintenance office for details. It is a great way to give back to the communities.”