Philadelphia spends millions on cleaning up litter. New study suggests there's a better way

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A new study finds litter is a costly problem that can't be solved solely by just cleaning up the mess.

The yearlong study funded in part by the Keep America Beautiful organization, PennDOT, and the state Department of Environmental Protection tracked the sources of litter and how much it costs to dispose of it.

In Philadelphia alone, dealing with litter costs $48 million a year.

"On the cleanup-enforcement side, it's about 89% of the money we spend and 11% is on the prevention," said Nic Esposito, director of the city's Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet. "And, I think it's a great baseline that we have now to really look at how we can move the needle the other way that we're doing more preventative measures, keeping the stuff off the streets before it gets there in the first place."

He says the study suggests education as a way to preventing the problem, which he says begins with reaching out to the sources of litter — drivers and pedestrians who throw cigarette butts onto the street and sidewalks and contractors who think it's okay to dump construction waste onto vacant lots.

He says the city intends to boost recycling efforts as well and is hoping to reach out to schools and neighborhoods as part of a coordinated plan to reduce waste.