In February, PennDOT was given the opportunity to address attendees of the Keep America Beautiful National Conference in Memphis, Tennessee as part of a panel featuring the Tennessee, Texas and Pennsylvania Departments of Transportation. The focus: the pivotal role that DOTs can play in the prevention of litter.
The department jumped at the opportunity to talk about the great things the administration was undertaking to address littering behaviors in the commonwealth.
In 2017, Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful (KPB) approached PennDOT and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to conduct a statewide litter behavior study using the methodology being used by Keep America Beautiful (KAB). A series of monthly meetings spanning two years led up to the results of the first ever comprehensive litter behavior and attitude study in the commonwealth.
The results of the study were issued in a statewide press release on February 4.
Field research results indicate there are more than 502 million pieces of trash littered Pennsylvania's roads. The most common items are cigarette butts (37 percent) and plastics (30 percent), with plastic film and beverage containers most prevalent. There are estimated 29.3 million beverage containers alone on the roads. Motorists and pedestrians are leading sources of litter, followed by improperly secured truck loads.
In a dual presentation in Memphis, PennDOT Policy Director Natasha Fackler and Deputy Communications Director Jan Huzvar told attendees about the study, and the importance of DOT's relationships with KAB affiliates. Fackler went on to address the department's current and planned approaches to combating litter.
PennDOT's efforts were so impressive that the department's study was featured in a keynote address stressing the importance of research. Shortly thereafter, Fackler and Huzvar took the stage to accept the agency partner of the year award for our department-funded Adopt-A-Highway program.
The PennDOT/DEP/KPB study has served as a springboard for a commonwealth-wide exploration of littering prevention. This newly created workgroup includes agencies via the governor's and agencies' policy offices, stakeholders, industry representatives and local governments.
PennDOT has spent on average nearly $10 million dollars per year to pick up litter. This multi-agency effort represents the first concerted attempt to take a scientific approach through data to address littering in Pennsylvania. Most importantly, with a new and very important emphasis on behavior change.