Litter Prevention

Knowing more about litter is the first step to a cleaner community!

Litter just doesn’t appear – it’s the result of careless attitudes and waste handling. Is there anything you can do? Knowing more about litter and where it comes from is a good place to start.

Why People Litter

Research by Keep America Beautiful, Inc. found that people litter because:

  • They feel no sense of ownership, even though areas such as parks and beaches are public property
  • They believe someone else – a park maintenance or highway worker – will pick up after the litter has already accumulated

“Litter- known” Facts

Motorists and pedestrians are often blamed for litter. There are actually seven primary sources:

  1. Household trash handling and its placement at the curb for collection
  2. Dumpsters used by businesses
  3. Loading docks
  4. Construction and demolition sites
  5. Trucks with uncovered loads
  6. Pedestrians
  7. Motorists

Litter is blown about by wind and traffic or carried by water. It moves until trapped by a curb, building, or fence. Once litter has accumulated, it invites people to add more.

Litter and Your Taxes

Litter is a costly problem. Highway departments spend millions of tax dollars and many hours annually picking up litter – money and time needed for more important services. Local, state, and federal governments also spend money removing litter left by careless park visitors.

Clean communities also have a better chance of attracting new businesses than those where litter is common.

What Can I Do?

Set an example for others, especially children, by not littering.

Carry a litter bag in your car.

Make sure trash cans have lids that can be securely fastened.

If you have curbside trash collection, don’t put out loose trash in boxes.

Tie papers in a bundle before placing them in a curbside recycling bin.

If you own a business, check dumpsters daily to ensure that the top and side doors are closed.

If you or a member of your family is involved in civic group, scouting, or recreational sports program, encourage the group to “adopt” a spot in your town and maintain it on a regular basis.

Make litter bags for your bicycle and give them to your friends too.

Report areas where people have illegally dumped garbage and debris to your local highway, public works, or conservation office, and ask that the material be removed. Volunteer to help organize and clean up

If you smoke, carry a portable ashtray to dispose of cigarette butts properly.  

Can I do More?

Ask the organizers of a festival, fair, or other outdoor event in your community to make it a “litter-free” event. This can be done by giving out litter bags at entrances and making sure that everyone who attends knows that it is a “litter-free” day. Affiliates of Keep America Beautiful have organized litter-free concerts, fairs, and minor-league baseball games.

Cover open loads on all trucks.

If you are a contractor, ask your chapter of the National Association of Home Builders about the “Build America Beautiful” program

Encourage a school to start a “clean campus” program. This could include placement of trash receptacles, litter pick-ups, and projects in which students track litter’s origins

Ask marina operators if your Boy or Girl Scout troop or civic group could pass out litter bags to boaters. Public boat ramps are also good spots to give away litter bags.