Keep America Beautiful shares results of study
Litter and littering behavior examined
National nonprofit Keep America Beautiful has announced
the results of the largest litter study ever conducted
in the United States. The study identifies and dissects
the causes, effects and costs of litter in America, and
is the first major national survey of litter in the United
States in 40 years.
Behavioral studies observed nearly 10,000 individuals
in 130 locations in 10 states. Quantitative surveys measured
roadway litter in GIS-selected samplings of 45 metropolitan
areas nationwide, as well as 180 non-roadway sample locations.
In the past 40 years, since 1968, the amount of
litter in America has decreased by 61 percent
nationwide, a change attributed to aggressive,
long-term public education and cleanup programs.
Yet litter remains a costly and often underestimated
problem for the environment and quality of life.
Litter conservatively costs our nation $11.5
billion per year. These are direct costs, including
cleanup and prevention programs, and are carried
largely by businesses and taxpayers. Not included
in this figure are significant indirect costs.
Decreased property values. 93 percent of homeowners,
55 percent of real estate agents and 90 percent
of property appraisers surveyed stated that
a littered neighborhood will decrease their
assessment of a home’s value.
Health effects and related costs of littered
The study concludes that at least 51.2 billion
pieces of litter are left on roadways; an average
of 6,729 pieces of litter per mile.
Cigarette butts comprise 38 percent of all items
littered on the highways, streets, parks and
playgrounds (in urban, suburban and rural areas
People matter. Most littering observed in the
study – 81 percent – was committed “with intent”
by the individual, and was mainly attributable
to lack of individual awareness or sense of
obligation. The study showed that 17 percent
of all observed disposals were classified as “improper”
Context matters. 15 percent of all littering
can be attributed to context. The strongest
contextual contributor to littering is the prevalence
of existing litter. Other contextual variables
affecting litter are the number of trash or
ash receptacles present, and the distance between
Age matters. Older individuals (30 and over)
littered less than younger individuals, but
gender was surprisingly not related to litter