Pennsylvania governor introduces Litter Action Plan

The plan is designed to help clean up the more than 500 million pieces of litter that are estimated to be scattered throughout the commonwealth.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, the state secretaries for the Department of Transportation and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Rep. Mike Sturla and city of Lancaster Mayor Danene Sorace joined other administration and community stakeholders Nov. 22 to highlight local anti-littering measures and call for action to combat Pennsylvania’s litter-problem at all levels statewide.

The Wolf administration released the state’s first Litter Action Plan–which reflects the work of more than 100 stakeholders from state and local government, businesses and the legislature. The plan includes current initiatives and recommendations to clean up the more than 500 million pieces of litter that are estimated to be scattered throughout the commonwealth.

“Pennsylvania is a great place to live, work and raise a family. It’s a beautiful state with stunning landscapes and bountiful natural resources, but we’ve got a litter problem,” Wolf says. “Litter is bad for the environment and our communities; it’s a drain on taxpayer dollars. Today, I’m excited to unveil a solution that all 13 million Pennsylvanians can be a part of—it’s a blueprint for a cleaner commonwealth.”

Demonstrating the cost of litter to communities and the commonwealth, PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian noted that the agency’s annual $14 million cost to clean up litter makes litter prevention especially important.

“We recognize we need to change behavior, not just clean up the mess,” Gramian says. “With this commonwealth Litter Action Plan, we’ve provided examples, resources and calls to action so we can make some transformative change here in Pennsylvania.”

DEP has funded “Pick Up Pennsylvania” community litter cleanups and illegal dumpsite cleanups for over two decades, supporting volunteers in removing many tons of trash from the state’s land and water. As littering has persisted, DEP sponsored with PennDOT the first comprehensive state study to inform development of the Litter Action Plan, with a focus on changing littering behavior.

“DEP is committed to helping drive a statewide shift to litter prevention,” says DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “If we bring the same energy to litter prevention initiatives that thousands of volunteers have brought to cleaning up litter in their communities, we’ll turn a corner on Pennsylvania’s trash problem and we’ll gain the community and economic benefits of a healthier environment.”

In addition to examples and suggestions for local governments, businesses and the public, the report outlines 16 recommendations for the commonwealth. Examples of actions state agencies are taking to support the higher-level recommendations in the plan include:

  • PennDOT, the Department of Community and Economic Development, and DEP collaboration on an anti-litter campaign anticipated for spring 2022.
  • PennDOT analysis of where and how to ensure it has the right litter-reducing tools in place in its public-facing facilities.
  • DEP work underway on a new rulemaking to provide convenient and affordable access to waste disposal and recycling services in rural areas of Pennsylvania where trash collection and recycling services are currently not economically feasible.
  • The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) is complementing its “Leave No Trace” program while working to update its concessionaire agreements to include language aimed at combatting litter, such as requiring food providers to minimize paper straw and disposable utensil use. And when on-site composting is available at a state park, concessionaires will be required to work with DCNR to convert as many of its food service products to compostable, paper-based forest product alternatives and then compost them with the food waste.
  • State police continuing Operation Clean Sweep, which launched this summer and reinforces a zero-tolerance mindset with litter enforcement, while sharing anti-litter messages year-round. This complements assistance with enforcing Litter Enforcement Corridors that, under a 2018 law, can be designated by the department and local governments to combat litter.
  • The Department of Education’s review of opportunities to further incorporate anti-litter curriculum into its environmental programming standards.
  • Fish and Boat Commission pilot projects, in coordination with DCNR, to properly dispose of fishing line.
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