Pitch in to clean up our region
In the early weeks of spring, many feel compelled to try to beautify the outdoor surroundings where they’ll be spending time in the months that follow.
Perhaps it’s related to the urge to engage in spring cleaning at home. And the annual observance of Earth Day takes place in April, accompanied by plenty of big community cleanup efforts.
But the need to help our environment and keep our communities and recreation spots clean remains urgent 365 days a year. It’s time to finally get beyond a once-a-year celebration of our environment and make it a regular part of our lives.
Doing so doesn’t necessarily require a major investment in time or money. Drive a bit less often. Adjust your thermostat to limit energy usage. Engage in recycling and limit the amount of trash you produce.
And for goodness sake, dispose of trash properly. If everyone did that, there would be little need for spring litter cleanups and adopt-a-highway programs. Far too many people are content dumping garbage wherever it suits them, along highways, in open spaces and even near trails and other places where people engage in recreation.
The scourge of careless littering and illegal dumping goes on, scarring a landscape of a state justifiably known for its great natural beauty. Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful estimates a half-billion pieces of litter are scattered throughout the state.
So at this moment when the messages of Earth Day are still fairly fresh in our minds, we urge readers to dedicate themselves to a yearlong effort toward better habits, especially when it comes to littering.
There are reasons for hope. Last fall state officials announced Pennsylvania’s first Litter Action Plan, noting that having trash strewn around our state is bad for the environment, harmful to communities and costly to taxpayers when state workers have to clean up the mess.
According to a 2020 study commissioned by state officials working with the nonprofit Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful, PennDOT work crews spent more than $65 million between 2014 and 2018 removing litter and debris from rights-of-way on state roadways. The agency’s annual litter removal budget is roughly $14 million. If the work weren’t necessary, those funds could address other pressing needs.
It’s a terrible shame that state and local governments have to devote their limited resources to a problem that could be so easily corrected if people just met a basic obligation. What is so difficult about waiting to find a trash receptacle rather than tossing garbage out of one’s vehicle? Or putting out one’s trash for collection rather than dumping it somewhere and making it someone else’s problem?
This message has been echoed for decades now, but far too many people aren’t listening. But we won’t stop emphasizing the point.
What each of us does has an impact on others here and around the globe. We are interconnected. When it comes to trash dumping, consider how important an attractive landscape is to the economic health of communities in this region. People looking for a break from the urban and suburban areas in our midst turn to the green spaces nearby for a respite from concrete and steel surroundings. There are high hopes that the continued development of a trail along the Schuylkill River will make it a great attraction. But it will be for naught if we can’t keep the land and water clean.
The state Department of Environmental Protection says 90% of Pennsylvanians agree that litter is a problem. Yet clearly not enough of us are acting accordingly.
It’s time to start doing the right thing and encouraging others to follow suit. Start a new routine aimed at greater consciousness of environmental action. Be sure to take time to enjoy these spring days and the beauty that goes with them.
Note that Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful’s Pick Up Pennsylvania program has cleanup events scheduled for May 21, including one along Route
41 in Chester County May 21 and another at French Creek and the Schuylkill River Trail in Phoenixville. Visit keeppabeautiful.org to learn more. Or engage in cleanup efforts on your own schedule. It’s good for you and our world.