‘We have a trash problem’: Governor Wolf unveils statewide trash action plan

Pennsylvanians take pride in the beauty the state offers, through millions of acres of forest, rolling hills and, this time of year, stunning fall scenery.

But anyone who has taken the state’s roads to reach these destinations will have a hard time arguing with Governor Tom Wolf.

“We have a waste problem,” Wolf said when announcing Pennsylvania’s first waste action plan, developed in concert with more than 100 stakeholders from state and local governments, businesses, lawmakers. , non-profit organizations and community organizations. “Waste is bad for the environment and our communities, it is a drain on taxpayer money.”

According to a 2020 study commissioned by state officials working with the nonprofit Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful, PennDOT task teams spent more than $ 65 million between 2014 and 2018 to dispose of waste and waste. debris from rights-of-way on state roads. The agency’s annual waste disposal budget is approximately $ 14 million.

“It’s money we could use to rebuild bridges, help veterans or feed people,” said Shannon Reiter, North Huntingdon resident and president of Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful. “We are so delighted that the governor and our partners in state agencies are taking the waste issue, the burden it places on communities, seriously and are looking to shift to a prevention strategy.”

The report identifies 16 recommendations to be addressed. Among them:

• PennDOT, the Department of Economic and Community Development and the Department of Environmental Protection will collaborate on an anti-litter campaign scheduled for spring 2022.

• DEP will work on rules to provide convenient and affordable access to waste disposal and recycling services in rural areas where they are not always economically feasible.

• In addition to its “Leave No Trace” program, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources will update concessionaire agreements to try to minimize the use of disposable straws and utensils. Vendors will also be notified when composting becomes available at a state park.

• State police will continue their “Operation Clean Sweep”, launched over the summer to reinforce a zero tolerance attitude to waste control.

• The Fish & Boat Commission will introduce pilot projects to encourage the proper disposal of fishing lines.

DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell said the state could learn a lesson from the thousands of volunteer garbage cleanups that take place across Pennsylvania each year.

“If we bring the same energy to the waste prevention initiatives that thousands of volunteers have brought to cleaning up the garbage in their communities, we will take a turn in the waste problem in Pennsylvania,” McDonnell said. “And we will reap the community and economic benefits of a healthier environment. “

In order to tackle litter in urban areas, the plan offers innovative solutions like Lancaster’s ‘Tiny Can Project’, where city authorities have installed miniature bins every few houses on both sides of the street in three targeted areas. . Residents with a “small can” outside their home agreed to empty it on garbage day with their regular garbage collection.

Stakeholders are hoping the plan can help solve what Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful estimates is half a billion trash strewn across the state.

“We recognize that we need to change behavior, not just clean up the mess,” said PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian. “With this Commonwealth Litter action Plan, we’ve provided examples, resources, and calls to action so we can make transformative change here in Pennsylvania. “

Read the full plan at DEP.pa.gov.

Patrick Varine is an editor at Tribune-Review. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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