Statewide Cleanup Campaign Targets Waterway Trash

By Emily Scott, Public News Service
For The Posts

HARRISBURG PA – Pennsylvania has seen a lot more litter generated during the pandemic, and environmental advocates have launched a cleanup campaign this month to keep trash out of waterways.

Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful, in collaboration with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the state Department of Environmental Protection, is asking volunteers to pick up garbage along streams, lakes and rivers through Nov. 30 (2021; Tuesday).

Locally, 2021 has been a banner year for stream clean-ups. In the Perkiomen Watershed, its conservancy reports, more than 1,300 volunteers have removed 1,161 bags of litter, 217 tires, and a whopping 3,480 pounds of scrap metal from 100 sites so far this year. For those who want to organize a cleaning campaign, the Schuylkill Action Network offers a free “Guidebook for Leading Litter Clean-Ups.”

Due to the high costs of trash cleanup, Dunn says the DEP, Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful and PennDOT are preparing to release a state Litter Action Plan, focused on prevention, also by month’s end.

It’s estimated more than 502 million items litter Pennsylvania roadways alone, and a good portion end up in waterways. Michelle Dunn, who coordinates the “Pick Up Pennsylvania” campaign, said trash can be hazardous to both water quality and wildlife.

“With these rainstorms we’re having, all the litter and even illegal dumping gets washed into the storm drains,” Dunn said. “That clogs the storm drains, flooding local areas. It can be blocking our creeks, which then causes flooding and eventually gets into our rivers and to the ocean, adding to marine pollution.”

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates 80 percent of debris in the ocean started as trash on land. Pick Up Pennsylvania plans to kick off year-round litter clean-ups in January.

“Anything you can keep out of the waterways is tremendous, and it doesn’t have to be this big fanfare of an event,” Dunn noted. “It can be removing an illegal dump site. It can be educating students or just your family to not litter, to be conscious of what could be recycled.”

Trash bags and gloves will be provided to Pick Up Pennsylvania volunteers. There’s a schedule of upcoming cleanups by region on Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful’s calendar of events, along with information about how to organize your own cleanup.

Photo by Manny Becerra via Unsplash, used under license