Pennsylvania Governor Encourages Residents to “Pick Up Pennsylvania”

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf today encouraged residents to help reduce litter by joining the statewide “Pick Up Pennsylvania” campaign of community cleanups running through May 31. The governor also invites everyone to learn about litter’s negative impacts and state efforts to reduce this scourge in a free online discussion, “Don’t Trash Pennsylvania,” hosted by the Wolf Administration this Friday.

“The past year has shown beyond a doubt what we’ve known all along: the outdoors is essential to quality of life for Pennsylvanians,” Gov. Wolf said. “Clean green spaces and waters support physical and mental health in addition to enabling the function of the ecosystem we depend on, fostering thriving communities, and supporting our recreation, tourism, and shopping economies. It is our collective responsibility to eliminate litter and I urge everyone to take steps to help keep Pennsylvania clean and green.”

“As we see increased trash around the state, we ask Pennsylvanians to start or join a litter cleanup event in their local community through ‘Pick Up Pennsylvania,’” said Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “Mask up, put on sturdy shoes and gloves, and head outside with a small group of family, buddies, or co-workers with supplies provided by the campaign. Even a small event makes an immediate impact.”

Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful coordinates the litter cleanup campaign. 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. Gloves, trash bags, and safety vests are provided by PennDOT, DEP, and the GLAD Products Company, a national sponsor.

As part of this event, DEP and the Pennsylvania Waste Industries Association are sponsoring trash disposal free of charge or at a reduced rate for registered “Pick Up Pennsylvania” participants at participating landfills throughout the month of April.

For over 20 years, hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians have participated in “Pick Up Pennsylvania” events, including Scout troops, businesses, watershed organizations, Trout Unlimited, Rod and Gun Clubs, and others.  Groups in PennDOT’s Adopt-A-Highway program, which involves volunteers cleaning roadsides year-round, have been longtime participants.

Adopt-A-Highway volunteers collect litter on a 2-mile section of state highway at least twice a year. In 2020, the program had over 5,000 participating groups, with more than 112,000 registered volunteers, helping to clean up nearly 8,000 miles of adopted state-maintained roadways.

“The impact that litter has on PennDOT cannot be overstated,” said Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) Secretary Yassmin Gramian. “We are extremely grateful for our Adopt-A-Highway volunteers and the positive difference they make. However, because of the scale of the litter problem, the department is still investing millions each year to pick up litter, pulling staff and funding away from core highway and bridge maintenance activities.”

“The responsibility of clean and beautiful neighborhoods belongs to all of us. Picking up litter, planting a tree or painting a park bench are simple, easy activities that most people can do, and the results are immediate,” said Shannon Reiter, president of Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful.

 Litter Discussion and Information Resources

DEP will host a free online discussion to increase Pennsylvanians’ knowledge of litter’s negative impacts; what DEP, PennDOT, and Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful are doing to reduce litter; and ways that everyone can help.

“Don’t Trash Pennsylvania” will be livestreamed from noon to 12:45 PM on Friday, March 26, on the DEP Facebook page and Webex. Anyone who’d like to watch it on Webex can register here.

Speakers from DEP, PennDOT, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful will discuss Pennsylvania’s litter challenge and answer questions.

A free video on the “Pick Up Pennsylvania” campaign is available in English (for streaming or download) and Spanish (for streaming or download). Media, municipalities, legislators, school and community leaders, and businesses are encouraged to share the video to help increase awareness of ways we can clean up our communities.

Although currently helpful and essential, cleanup is a costly approach to the ongoing litter problem. DEP and PennDOT, with support from Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful, aim to shift the focus of efforts to littering prevention. The Littering Action Plan initiative is assembling four work groups who’ll start working in May to develop recommended strategies in education, infrastructure, enforcement, and partnerships to change Pennsylvanians’ littering behavior.