April is the month when cleanup and environmental improvement efforts are at their peak each year.
It’s when Earth Day is observed and many people engage in a steady push to clean up our communities and countryside. Volunteer groups, businesses and others get organized in an effort to make a difference.
It’s only natural that these things happen in April as spring kicks in and minds turn to the outdoors after the long winter. And of course the practice of spring cleaning has ancient roots.
But the need to help our environment and keep our communities and recreation spots clean remains urgent 365 days a year. As May arrives, 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.
If nothing else, 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.
Consider these numbers from Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful. The nonprofit group’s Pick Up PA program in 2022 disposed of 3.4 million pounds of trash, 1.6 million pounds of recyclables and 45,412 tires during cleanup efforts that year. There’s no doubt that’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes littering and illegal dumping in Pennsylvania, as just about any motorist can attest.
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.
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 Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful, PennDOT 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 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, yet far too many people aren’t listening. But we won’t stop emphasizing the point.
Consider how important an attractive landscape is to the economic health of communities in this region. People looking for a break from the city and suburbs turn to the green spaces nearby for a respite from concrete and steel. Continued development of a trail along the Schuylkill River could make for a great attraction in our region. 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 has cleanup programs scheduled in the coming weeks and months. Go to keeppabeautiful.org to learn more. Or engage in cleanup efforts on your own schedule. It’s good for you and our world.
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