Littering Facts and Statistics

Metal debris from uncovered truck punching into passenger side

I haven’t done a post on litter for quite awhile. But I received an email from a guy who wanted to report a Litterer in San Jose, CA.

I just Gotta Tell Ya: Who Litters

  • 75% of Americans Admit to Littering within the last 5 years.
  • Most common litter offenders- Men between 18-34 years
  • Smokers
  • People who eat at Fast Food places at least 2x per week
  • Drives more than 50 miles/day
  • People who go out for entertainment at least 1x per week

Where does Litter Come From?

  • Household trash leftover or spillover over from garbage collection
  • Dumpsters used by business
  • Loading docks
  • Construction and demolition sites
  • Trucks with uncovered loads- that we know, it’s all over the freeway (40%)
  • Pedestrians
  • People in Cars.
Why People Litter

  • Lazy
  • Don’t Care
  • Litter begets Litter
  • Ignorance
  • No sense of pride
  • Lack of Consequence for their actions

From American The Beautiful:

Litter is also expensive. Houses for sale in littered neighborhoods usually don’t get the best prices and owners lose money. Fires started by dropped or dumped litter cause millions of dollars of damage every year.

Litter is illegal. Most people are unaware of littering fines. Most localities also have fines for businesses or pedestrians caught littering. Many people are unaware that the person opening a package of gum and dropping the wrapper on the sidewalk is doing an illegal act and, if caught, could face charges. Littering is against the law.

Litter cost communities. Clean communities have a better chance of attracting new business and residents and tourists. Long term less revenue to city, county and state coffers, meaning higher taxes.

Litter hurts people. Every year there are numerous vehicle accidents caused by litter. People in these accidents are injured and sometimes even killed in their attempts to avoid litter in the roadways. Young children fall on litter in playgrounds, get cut and need medical attention.

Litter also harms plants and degrades natural areas. When garbage is dumped, it can kill or stunt plant growth. Few people think about the harm to natural areas from litter.

Litter kills or injures animals. Many small animals crawl into bottles or jars and get stuck and slowly starve to death. Animals get caught in plastic six pack rings, plastic bags, fishing line and a multitude of throwaways. Birds that are stuck, can’t fly away from danger. Sometimes animals caught in six pack rings are strangled as they grow too big for the opening. Animals get cut, infected and die. Every year, millions of birds, fish and animals die from litter.

Litter is a problem that can be controlled. Education is an important tool. People who are aware of the dangers of litter often make more of an effort to always put their trash the correct place. They also spread the word to others they see littering and teach them to dispose of garbage the right way. Community clean ups encourage people to take pride in their community and keep it clean. Quick removal of litter keeps it from growing into an unmanageable dump site. People can make a difference. Litter can be conquered.

Litter carries Germs: Scavengers, such as rats are drawn to lots of litter. Rats are carriers of many types of diseases that make people ill.

Litter is a problem with Farmers and Ranchers; Cattle and other animals can die from ingesting metal and other substances such as ground up glass. Repairs to machinery jammed by trash, tires damaged by broken bottles. means downtime and lost crops.

Litter harms water quality : Careless dumping of hazardous waste seeps into surrounding soil and cause ground water pollution.

Litter is Expensive: The amount of money being spent picking up litter could be used in repairing roads, hiring more fireman and police/

Economic Value of wasted used containers

In 2005, the forgone scrap value of 135 billion wasted beverage bottles and cans exceeded $2.1 billion. This means that had these containers been recycled instead of trashed, they would have been worth over $2.1 billion on the market.

  • The most valuable component of un-recycled beverage containers was the 55 billion discarded used aluminum beverage cans (UBCs), weighing in at about 810,000 tons. The scrap value for UBCs averaged about 75¢ per pound in 2005, and has already broken the $1/lb mark in 2006. Had these 55 billion cans been recycled, they could have generated as much as $1.2 billion in revenue. By comparison, Quebec’s Alouette group recently spent US$1.23 billion to increase the annual capacity of the Sept-Iles aluminum smelter from 245,000 to 550,000 tons.
  • Three billion pounds of #1 PET plastic bottles were also land filled, littered, or incinerated. At an average market value of almost 22¢, this would have fetched $675 million had it been recycled. There is a strong market demand for reclaimed PET, since PET imports by Chinese and Asian buyers continue to grow. Domestic PET re-claimers would also benefit from an increased supply of plastic bottles, because for the last two years, they have been having increasing difficulty meeting their feedstock needs due to constricted supplies and high prices. Were the amount of PET collected in the U.S. to increase dramatically, new business opportunities and jobs could be created for American industry.
  • #2 HDPE bottles–used for natural juices, water and milk jugs, and for detergent and other personal care items—are even more valuable than PET, averaging 31.2¢ per pound in 2005. Fewer of them are purchased and discarded, however, so the total wasted market value was $259 last year.
  • Glass bottles. About 7 million tons of glass bottles are wasted in the U.S. annually.  Scrap prices vary tremendously depending on collection and processing methods, and on proximity to market. Bottle and fiberglass manufacturers value quality, so uncontaminated color-sorted amber or flint  bottles from a deposit state, for example, might command as much as $65 per ton from a processor in the midwest, California, or the Northeast. Green glass is generally less valuable because green bottles are only produced in a couple of locations in North America. Color-sorted glass from dual-stream curbside programs might fetch $25 per ton, while mixed-color glass from dual or single stream programs may only be worth $5 per ton. If the curbside mix is highly contaminated, or if there is no glass plant close by, it may be worth nothing at all–leading to its use as an “alternative daily landfill cover.” With these variations in mind, the value of glass that is currently being wasted nationwide ranges from about $30 to $400 million per year.

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  1. anoynoumus says

    who made up littering i went on this website because i’m doing public speaking and this website is really good but whoever did start littering i so am going to sue them.

  2. faliah says

    people who think they can litter are despicable people. I bet they don’t do that at home!! 😐

  3. Juliann says

    Aw ! Poor animals! This helped a lot, i’m using this information for my Senior Exhibition.

  4. Audrey austin says

    I need more facts for this. What about school and what happens when they litter this is very helpful but we dont need just about every were but the schools

  5. natalie says

    hey stop littering and leaving stupid comments that say bad words don’t you know that kids look at these websites for information you are just setting a bad example for them so shut up and stop littering if your going to leave a comment then leave a nice one these people are caring to help our environment so set a good example other than a bad example for the kids you need to help the environment instead of not caring.

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