Indiana Senior Works to Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful

Indiana Senior Works to Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful

(The Indiana Gazette) In recent years, multiple sources including local news outlets and PennDOT, have reported that there are more than 500 million pieces of trash scattered along Pennsylvania’s main roads. That’s about 39 pieces of trash for each individual person in Pennsylvania.

As an Indiana resident and current senior at Indiana Area Senior High School, I’ve lived along a highway for the entirety of my life. It hasn’t always been the same one, but the common factor remains the same: excessive litter. This is what inspired me to apply to be a young ambassador for Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful, and consequently being selected as one of 35 ambassadors spread across Pennsylvania through a competitive application process. The organization’s mission is to “[empower] Pennsylvanians to keep our communities clean and beautiful.”

As a young ambassador, I conduct and coordinate one cleanup event and one education event throughout the duration of the year. According to a PennDOT, DEP and KPB survey, the most commonly found items are cigarette butts and various forms of plastic, which make up almost 70 percent of the litter. Typical sources consist of walking pedestrians and car drivers using their windows as disposal methods. What’s more, this amount of trash is expensive to clean up, costing up to $14 million each year. In addition, all of this waste has harmful effects on wildlife, the environment, contaminating both soil and water sources, which in turn costs more money in order to remedy the problem.

Where does all this money come from? Taxpayers. Even with the money and the long list of volunteers to help conduct clean-up events, the accumulation of litter is proving difficult to keep up with. Something needs to be done, and not just by way of clean-up events. But how do you change the actions of millions? How do you get others to stop littering?

The first thing would be to consider why people litter in the first place. Convenience, for example. People are more likely to litter if there are no trash cans readily available as they don’t want to hang on to unnecessary garbage. The chance of a person littering in an area that already has a lot of litter is also higher compared to places that are cleaner. Hence, the logical solution would be to install more frequent garbage cans, make recycling services more accessible and potentially suggest that everyone keep a bag in their cars reserved for their trash.

However, in order to create change that’s long-lasting, you have to start at the root of the problem: respect for the environment. By educating younger generations about the importance of keeping their surroundings clean and beautiful and finding a way to make them care about the cause and inspire them to do something about it, we may be able to begin to shape a world where you don’t have to read about state litter problems in the newspaper. This knowledge can then be passed on to the generations to come, but it has to start with us. We have to be the catalysts to kick-start the change we want to see. We first have to care about the environment if we want others to care.

One person is capable of creating change, but when many people work together, the impact of that change can be increased tenfold, as cliche as it may sound. This planet has gifted us with so much and has taken care of us for millennia. I think it’s long past due that we, as a collective, begin to return the favor.

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Read more about the Young Ambassadors of Pennsylvania program!