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State begins litter cleanup campaign

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Transportation are seeking volunteers for Pick Up Pennsylvania, a campaign of litter cleanup events. The initiative runs through Nov. 30.

Volunteers must take proper steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, including wearing masks, practicing social distancing and limiting outdoor groups to 250 people or fewer and any indoor gathering to groups of 25 people or fewer.

DEP, PennDOT, Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful and other partners sponsor Pick Up Pennsylvania events each spring and fall.

“The COVID-19 pandemic brought twin challenges to our litter cleanup efforts this spring. It put group cleanup events on hold, while at the same time, littering increased in state parks and many other places as more people pursued outdoor activities,” DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell said. “So DEP is doubly excited to support this fall campaign, encouraging small-group or individual litter cleanup activities. Many Pennsylvanians care about litter and the problems it causes. Their actions in cleaning up litter make their communities safer, healthier and more inviting; reduce stormwater runoff pollution; and help reduce the damage litter does to wildlife, particularly aquatic life.”

“PennDOT is proud to stand with DEP and Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful in support of all Pick Up Pennsylvania volunteers,” said PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian. “The selfless spirit of our Adopt-A-Highway teams echoes the department’s desire for not only litter-free roadways, but litter-free waterways as well.”

Registered Pick Up Pennsylvania events can get free trash bags, gloves and safety vests provided by DEP, PennDOT, Keep America Beautiful, GLAD Products Company and the Ocean Conservancy, as supplies last.

Individuals, families, neighbors, students, civic organizations and local governments are all invited to participate, as well as volunteer groups who clean up roadways through the PennDOT Adopt-A-Highway program.

Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful coordinates the campaign in support of the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Zone Cleanup. Waterways are the ultimate destination of many particles of plastic and other litter. Volunteers can learn more and register at Pick Up Pennsylvania.

“With the spring cleanup program canceled, volunteer help is needed now more than ever,” said Shannon Reiter, president of Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful. “Though we can’t gather in large groups, we can still make a shared effort to improve our communities by picking up litter. While this seems like a small effort when faced with such grave challenges, it is something that everybody can do. Individuals, families or small groups can safely support their communities by picking up litter.”

The fall 2019 Pick Up Pennsylvania campaign included 12,610 volunteers who coordinated 382 events across the state. They removed 488,135 pounds of trash from Pennsylvania’s watersheds and waterways, preventing litter and trash from making its way downstream and eventually ending up in our oceans.

In the spring and fall 2019 campaigns, the PennDOT Adopt-A-Highway program contributed 20,404 volunteers, who cleaned up nearly 16 percent of the collected litter on 10,576 miles of cleaned-up roadway.

PennDOT has created a comprehensive webpage with all volunteer opportunities available, from Pick Up Pennsylvania and Adopt-A-Highway to safety training, litter brigades and more. Find it at penndot.gov.

DEP, PennDOT and Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful are also leading an initiative to develop a state research-based littering action plan focused on changing people’s behavior to prevent littering.