Litter Costs the U.S. $11.5B Annually

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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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