By: Jess Mihalczo

Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful recently partnered with Burns & McDonnell, the Pennsylvania (PA) Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the PA Department of Transportation (PennDOT) to publish the first state-wide litter cost study in over twenty years. 

They surveyed nine cities across the state on litter management and illegal dumping budgeting. These cities included: Allentown, Altoona, Erie, Harrisburg, Lancaster, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Reading, and Scranton. Researchers conducted on-the-ground litter counts in 180 different locations and spoke with 500 residents statewide via a phone survey.

Our top 3 take-aways from the Study


1 – Collectively, the nine cities spent over $68 million a year on litter prevention, education and outreach, abatement and enforcement. $48 million was spent by Philadelphia alone, and 88% of Philly’s spending was on litter abatement (versus education or outreach).

(State Totals, Top)

(Philadelphia Totals, Bottom)


2 – About 83% phone survey respondents said that they only occasionally or rarely see educational messaging focused on litter prevention. Additionally, about half of the residents surveyed said they believe that people litter because people don’t care enough to find a receptacle or there is not one placed someplace conveniently enough. 

3 – The City of Philadelphia manages six Sanitation Convenience Centers (SCC) that are open six days a week and accept a variety of waste from residents. Research indicated that SCC’s located in the most densely populated areas of the city are actually the least utilized. The Streets Department believes this could be due to vehicle transportation being a more important means of “access” to a facility (rather than proximity). 

Overall, Philadelphia’s Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet has been an effective driver of clean-ups, program implementation and illegal dumping prosecutions in the past two years. The challenges Philadelphia is facing, and some of their solutions, are in line with other major cities across the state.


Read more on the 2018-2019 Pennsylvania Litter Research Study here and the Study of Nine Cities here


To volunteer with Keep Philadelphia Beautiful or learn how to get involved with improving recycling or litter in your neighborhood, e-mail