LARGO – Prince George’s County is hoping a modern solution will help stop an age-old problem: littering. This month, the county plans to launch a mobile app called PGCLitter TRAK that will allow community groups who conduct litter clean-ups to more easily report the activities to the county, and the county to compile and analyze […]
LARGO – Prince George’s County is hoping a modern solution will help stop an age-old problem: littering.
This month, the county plans to launch a mobile app called PGCLitter TRAK that will allow community groups who conduct litter clean-ups to more easily report the activities to the county, and the county to compile and analyze data to gauge progress on meeting litter reduction mandates.
Tiaa Rutherford, the county’s litter reduction program manager, presented information about PGCLitter TRAK to a group of community and civic association leaders at a meeting on Aug. 4.
“This is the citizen’s application. We also have an internal app called LitterTRAK that county agencies will use. This is going to be helping us to track our litter reduction. What we need to know as a county is, how are you assisting us?” she said.
The smart phone app runs with another app called Survey123. The names of active community groups and municipalities are pre-loaded into the survey section of the app, so users would select the appropriate group and input information such as how many volunteers assisted with the clean-up, the type of litter removed, and how many bags were collected. The app then uses geographic information system (GIS) technology and the phone’s map feature to mark the location of trash bags communities have collected, so county agencies can send staff to retrieve the litter.
“In a version of this application we’re releasing later on in the fiscal year, you will be able to press ‘yes’ and an email goes out directly to individuals in the Department of Public Works and Transportation letting them know the location of the bags,” Rutherford said.
The app will help the county stay up-to-date on clean-up days, Adopt-A-Road sessions and other trash pick-ups taking place.
Litter is a major issue for Prince George’s County, and leaders have long had problems effectively dealing with the problem.
“The reality is that there are not enough employees in the county picking up litter to keep up with the amount of litter. So we need you all’s help,” Rutherford said.
County Council Chair Derrick Davis said in the fiscal year 2017 budget, the council added an additional $2 million for litter clean-up efforts, but the problem won’t be solved until individuals change their own behavior.
“Quite honestly, we can’t stay ahead of it if there are a million people throwing trash in our streets,” he said. “We are committing the resources. We need to police ourselves, because what I see outside often is disgusting. People are treating our county inappropriately.”
Prince George’s County is also under a mandate from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reduce the total maximum daily load (TMDL) of trash entering the waterways of the Anacostia River watershed by 170,628 pounds per year by 2018.
Rutherford said one full 33-gallon trash bag of litter counts as 25 pounds in the reporting process. The app asks users to take a photograph of the trash bags when they submit the information, which will provide documentation on the amount of litter removed to help with reporting.
“We’re being fact-checked all the time, we’re being audited. So we’re preparing ourselves for the state of Maryland to come in and say ‘there’s no way Prince George’s County met their mandate. There’s no way,’” she said. “They’re not anticipating us meeting the mandates. We want to be able to say, ‘yeah, they did. And I can tell you the number of communities, and I have pictures of all of the trash.’”
The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) is charged with monitoring the county’s efforts, and Prince George’s is required to reduce trash to qualify for the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System permits MDE issues.
“The stormwater permit for Prince Georges County requires the county to undertake efforts to reduce trash and address the TMDL,” said Mark Shaffer at MDE. “We expect the county to meet the trash reduction goals. If the goals are not met, the Maryland Department of the Environment could take enforcement action.”
He said the county reported 66,512 pounds of trash removed from the watershed in its 2015 annual report submitted back in January. That amount exceeded the interim goal of 62,000 pounds.
Only one person per community group would need to use the app to report each clean-up event. Rutherford said she will be offering training and instructions for the community groups looking to use the app. She can be reached at 301-883-6226.
Davis said he hopes groups throughout the county use the app after it launches.
“I’m hoping that we take advantage of the resource,” he said.
He added that community leaders can also help spread awareness about the litter problem and call out those they catch littering.
“In your civic association, admonish everyone who speeds in your neighborhood and admonish everyone who litters in our streets,” he said. “If you can do that, that would be very, very helpful.”