Litter Facts and Research
Main Types of Litter
|Type of Litter||Percentage|
|Fast Food Waste||(33%)|
Source: Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) survey of Adopt-A-Highway volunteers - 1994
How long does it take to decompose?
|Styrofoam container||> 1 million years|
|Plastic jug||1 million years|
|Aluminum can||200-500 years|
|Disposable diaper||550 years|
|Tinned can||90 years|
|Leather shoe||45 years|
|Wool sock||1 year|
|Paper bag||1 month|
|Banana peel||3-4 weeks|
Ways to cut down on waste:
- Use cloth napkins instead of paper
- Use sealable storage containers rather than plastic wrap
- Reuse cardboard boxes, plastic bags and paper sacks (Missouri Dept. of Natural Resources)
Junk mail wastes huge amounts of paper and adds to potential litter. Here are some ways to help you deal with it:
Learn more about mailing lists and how to get off them at the website of the Direct Marketing Association (www.dmaconsumers.org).
Get a list of brokers to contact. You can find a list under "Publications" on the website of www.bridgingthegap.org.
Main Reasons For Littering
Why people litter:
- People are too lazy to dispose of trash properly
- People are more likely to throw litter on top of litter than drop litter in neat surroundings
- Don't Care
- Others will pick it up
- Not aware they are littering
Smokers and littering:
(Environmental Protection Authority of New South Wales(EPA) Research 2000)
- Many smokers do not believe that littering their cigarette butts has an environmental impact or is inappropriate behavior.
- Many smokers blame their littering behavior on a lack of well-placed bins for cigarette butts.
- Over 80% of smokers said they would bin their butts if suitable bins were available (three key areas for more bins were alongside every ordinary litterbin, at entrances to large city buildings and at bus stops).
- Over half of smokers said they would change their behavior if they were more aware of the issues and their potential environmental impact.
Littered cigarette filters contain toxic chemicals that leak into the air and water.
Help a smoker who litters by sending him or her an anonymous email and free personal disposable ashtray from www.cigarettelitter.org
Identification of Key Litterers
A poll conducted in 1998 of male and female Texans > 16 years old revealed the following predictors of littering in order of importance:
- Age: 16-24 (now people age 16-24 are the target in Texas and nationwide)
- Eats fast food at least 2 nights/week.
- Goes out for nighttime entertainment at least 1/week.
- Drives >50 miles/day.
- Never been married
Neither gender nor ethnicity were factors increasing likelihood of littering.
Primary sources of litter: (KAB Research, 1998)
- Household garbage cans
- Commercial dumpsters
- Demolition Sites
- Loading Docks
- Trucks With Uncovered Backs
The story of litter is the same worldwide. The EPA of Australia found the following information:
Five types of people with respect to litter:
- Non-litterers - environmentally conscious, don't litter and usually pick up litter of others
- Inconvenients - too hard, too much trouble, someone else's problem
- Ignorants - these people are simply unaware of a link between the environment and their litter behavior
- Willful Arrogants - usually litter in a context, i.e. "It's okay to litter in urban areas but not in the country"
- Anti-establishments - make a statement with purposeful littering
Caring enough to not litter seems to be driven by:
- Knowledge and awareness
- How much they care about the environment
- Positive self-image
- Attitudes to life (i.e. happy and content)
- Sense of community and an empathy with the needs of others
- Ease of disposal
- Context they are in (16-24 year olds tend to litter more while in groups, but those older litter less in groups and more when alone)
- Type of litter
- If they can get away with it (either in terms of being observed or fined)
Source: Urban Litter Partnership, 1998 (American Plastic Council program with KAB and U.S. Conference of Mayors)
- Owners of premises not visible from the street report problems of illegal dumping of main household appliances after-hours
- Businesses with drive-through windows report that the presence of this window generates additional litter, which requires additional expense for cleanup
- Owners of businesses near interstates say that transients and travelers who use their parking lots as a rest area generate a lot of litter
- Most businesses acknowledge litter is a problem and spend money on clean up
- Convenience stores attract more litter than other businesses
Interesting to note that when asked about their perceptions of how their municipality responds to citizen reports of littering or illegal dumping, the majority of respondents said if they reported a case of illegal dumping or littering, there would be no specific action taken. The majority of respondents also said that existing anti-littering laws were of little or no use due to lack of enforcement.
(That was based on Partnership survey of cities.)
- People who feel the highest personal obligation to not litter are also people who feel a strong sense of identity with their communities, frequent recreational areas, have self-esteem and place special value on a sense of accomplishment, warm relationships, and a sense of belonging.
- People who don't litter are not necessarily going to pick up other people's litter. While a good education seems to have a positive effect on individual littering and recycling habits, those with the highest levels of education are not as likely to pick up other people's litter.
- Younger people litter more, particularly when in groups.
- Littering tends to be less in areas where community recycling is available. The correlation between littering and recycling may be attributed to public education associated with recycling which in turn has increased awareness of litter and a need to properly dispose of it.
- The presence or absence of trash receptacles is not a major factor in littering.
- Education is seen as an essential component of any litter prevention partnership. Education is needed to motivate the participants, including people in the judicial system, law enforcement, county and municipal departments, private industry and the public.
Other State Campaigns
Florida Litter study 1993-97 included a review of other state efforts: "During the past 10 years, several states have conducted successful litter reduction campaigns. Programs in Texas, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania, for example, have provided evidence that grassroots participation combined with a statewide media campaign can be effective reducing litter."
Texas - "Don't Mess with Texas" - began in 1986, initially spent $2 million/year. Texas had the first Adopt-a-Highway program. A new campaign began in '98 and had these groups sign on: HEB grocery (printed slogan on one billion plastic shopping bags), Coca Cola bottling (tagging radio ads), Dairy Queen (printing the logo on its bags) and McCoy Building Supplies (putting bumper stickers on its fleet and the logo on its bags).
Pennsylvania - Litterbug is a registered trademark of the Pennsylvania Resources Council. It first let the National Council of State Garden Clubs use it in the mid '50s for "Don't be a Litterbug" campaign. Then the PRC let Keep America Beautiful use if for more than 10 years. A newer litterbug for the PRC was created in '97. Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection launched a new litterbug campaign in response to concerns about litter impacts on tourism, real estate values, economic development and health and safety. Farmers reporting losses of millions of dollars due to glass also heightened concerns about roadside littering and metal litter that damaged equipment and injured animals.
Oklahoma - Initiated a 2-pronged litter reduction campaign in '87. Adopt-a-Highway Program was begun to get citizens involved in cleanups and at same time a media campaign began. Result was litter down 23% from '88-'89.