GREENSBURG – Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful and PalmettoPride, a South Carolina-based nonprofit, recently announced a comprehensive joint study of the effectiveness of state waste laws and enforcement practices and procedures.
This cross-national study is the first of its kind in the country and can serve as a benchmark to measure waste control enforcement efforts across the country.
The two states worked with Carson Consulting to review existing state waste laws and interview key stakeholders to assess the strength of current state waste enforcement tools and systems. Carson Consulting conducted a mixed-methods study examining five years of data from 2016-2020 and interviewing law enforcement officials and judicial officials to gain on-the-ground insights.
A major focus of the research included examining the laws of Pennsylvania and South Carolina regarding penalties and reviewing the attitudes, behaviors, and influences that emerge from comparing case disposition to interviews.
Four key findings from the study show that enforcement is seen as necessary to stop littering and illegal dumping, but that activity is low; Officers or judges do not advocate large fines; There is a high rate of guilty convictions and community service requirements are considered effective in conviction.
“Enforcing litter laws is critical to changing behaviors that create litter,” said Sarah Lyles, executive director of PalmettoPride, “but those laws must be enforceable from ticketing to decision-making. This study helps support and identify what is most effective from a law enforcement and judicial perspective.”
The studies on the littering law in the individual federal states are part of larger initiatives to avoid littering. Pennsylvania released former Gov. Tom Wolf’s Litter Action Plan in 2021. The goal of Pennsylvania’s Litter Action Plan is to prevent litter by developing and implementing a research-based plan with recommended actions that can be used statewide to change litter behavior over time. PalmettoPride, South Carolina’s anti-litter organization, will release a study on the litter later this year.
“Pennsylvania’s 2021 Litter Action Plan called for improvements to the Waste Act, including but not limited to the following action items: evaluating and updating fines for littering and illegal dumping, mandating garbage collection, and linking community service to garbage disposal. This investigation, which details the effectiveness of the state’s 13 statutes on garbage and illegal disposal, is the first step in that process,” said Shannon Reiter, President of Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful.
Littering is not a problem that only occurs in one area, state or county. Population densities, individual attitudes and infrastructure are just a few factors that influence how well we manage the amount of waste produced.
“Our society’s general attitude toward consumerism doesn’t lend itself to small amounts of litter,” Lyles said. “Worldwide we are catching up on a decades-old system.”
Carson Consulting is a global consulting firm specializing in garbage, illegal landfill and waste management issues. The team conducts research on these topics to determine the effectiveness and effectiveness of related programs and provides a unique blend of analytical and operational expertise in addressing waste behavior and identifying innovative solutions. Carson Consulting is working with several other states on similar studies of the litter, giving Reiter and Lyles, both state leaders of Keep America Beautiful, hope for change.
“Systematic change takes time,” said Reiter. “Understanding the scope of the problem and the effectiveness of the existing tools in the toolbox is crucial. As more states focus their attention on tackling garbage and illegal disposal, we hope that the lessons learned in Pennsylvania will not only add value, but also advance these discussions.”
This study was funded in part by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. To read the full report, visit keeppabeautiful.org and select Research.
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