Learn About Litter

Why do people litter?

  • Approximately 85% of littering is the result of individual attitudes. The individual person and their behavior is the most important factor in whether littering will occur.
  • One of the biggest reasons why people litter is the prevalence of existing litter - individuals are much more likely to litter into already littered environments. The presence of litter in an area sends a message that littering is acceptable.
  • People often feel it is acceptable to litter where it is someone else’s job to clean up (such as a school with a custodial/maintenance staff that manages school grounds) or where there is no sense of ownership.
  • Other factors that can contribute to litter include excess packaging, availability of garbage and recycling receptacles and lack of enforcement for existing litter regulations.
  • Studies have found that young people, under the age of 35, are twice as likely to litter as people between the ages of 35-49, and three times as likely to litter as people over 50.

Why does it matter?

Litter can have several negative effects on a community, including the following:

  • Property values decrease in littered areas.
  • Crime increases in littered areas.
  • Litter has a large financial impact. It costs the U.S. almost $11.5 billion annually, money that could be used for other community improvements.
  • New businesses and residents are less likely to locate in littered areas.
  • Litter pollutes the environment and can be hazardous to wildlife.
  • Recreation areas become less attractive and tourism can decrease.

Additional Resources