Litter Costs the U.S. $11.5B Annually

Keep America Beautiful (KAB) recently announced the results of the largest study in the U.S. about our littering habits.

After observing 10,000 individuals in 10 states, the study found that, while litter has decreased 61 percent in the last 40 years, 51.2 billion pieces still clutter our roadways today.

While litter continues to be a prevalent concern across the country, efforts to increase awareness are improving rates across the country. During the 2009 Great American Cleanup, 64 million pounds of litter were collected.

While litter continues to be a prevalent concern across the country, efforts to increase awareness are improving rates across the country. During the 2009 Great American Cleanup, 64 million pounds of litter were collected. Image courtesy of Mickaël Fonjallaz.

If famous PSAs aren’t enough to convince the American public that littering is a detrimental practice, perhaps the thinning of our wallets is more convincing.

According to KAB, littering costs the U.S. $11.5 billion every year. Not included in this estimate are the indirect costs of littering, including decreases in property values, commerce and tourism, as well as the health effects of this form of waste.

Of the research conducted, it was found that:

Cigarette butts comprise 38 percent of all items littered on the highways, streets, parks and playgrounds.
– 53 percent of all litter was attributable to motorists.
– 81 percent of littering observed was committed “with intent” by the individual, and was mainly attributable to lack of individual awareness or sense of obligation.
– Existing litter is more likely than not to encourage further littering.
– Older individuals (30+) littered less than younger individuals.

The report explains also that the bulk of the costs to cleanup this litter (about $9.1 billion) is incurred by businesses. However, this is likely an underestimate, as cleanup costs are often lumped in with staff, maintenance and other departmental budgets.

Feature image courtesy of Jeremy Yerse

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Comments

  1. The referenced study by Keep America Beautiful, Inc. (www.kab.org) should be viewed through the eyes of its corporate sponsors as outlined at the following link:

    http://www.kab.org/site/PageServer?pagename=Corporate_contributors

    The population of 34 of the US states is within a 100 mile radius of the Empire State Building, NYC, NY. Yet the study did not sample that area (other than 4 areas in NJ).

    It appears that sponsors of cigarettes, beer, soda, fast-food, plastic cups and others promoted the reporting of a large decline in litter. That is not the case in our area of metro NYC.

    Because of their corporate influences, few financial benefits to affiliates and high fees to join, Keep Putnam Beautiful is not a member of Keep America Beautiful.

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