The High Cost of Litter -Millions of Taxpayer $$$$

Every time I go walking and pick up litter, I wonder- Why don’t people pick up the litter in their yards and the street in front of them? We are talking about a total of 100 Square Feet- it would take 15 minutes! Then I get irritated because we the taxpayers are paying for this. We, in California each pay about $1,000 per year just to have trash picked up. That does not count your monthly trash collection.

So I got to thinking, what is the total cost of litter pickup? It’s pretty astounding when you look at the below stats. Most of the below stats are only Roadside Litter Pickup. It does not include: Recycling fees, lost tourist revenues, lost business revenues, lost resale value on homes.  The numbers quoted here are from State Transportation departments only. Does not include other National Departments, Forestry Services, City and County Services, Independent Business, Farming and Ranching costs, Park and Recreation Costs (city, county, federal) , BLM,  Administrating Volunteer Programs, Department of Natural Resources, Correctional Camp Programs, Department of Corrections, Department of Ecology, Community Service and Work Crews, Community Litter Cleanup Programs, Administration of Adopt A Highway, Department of Transportation, Ecology Youth Corps.

Keep America Beautiful Cites seven primary sources of litter:

  1. Trucks with uncovered or unsecured loads on local roads and highways.
  2. Pedestrians or cyclists who do not use the receptacles.
  3. Motorists who do not use car ashtrays or litterbags.
  4. Business dumpsters that are improperly covered.
  5. Loading docks and commercial or recreational marinas with inadequate waste receptacles.
  6. Construction and demolition sites without tarps and receptacles to contain debris and waste.
  7. Household trash scattered before or during collection.

American Litter Scorecare

BEST overall states: Vermont, Minnesota, Iowa, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Wyoming, Virginia, New Jersey.

WORST States:  Mississippi, Nevada, Louisiana, West Virginia, Alabama, Arkansas, New Mexico, South Carolina.


  • $6 M Taxpayer Dollars  per year
  • 2005-06 cost on interstates and state roads: more than $5.9 million.
  • Employee hours: more than 177,000.
  • 2006-07 estimate: more than $6 million.
  • The Cullman County Sanitation Department has calculated there are over 500 tons of litter on Cullman County roads, and this does not include city streets.



  • $5M Taxpayer dollars per year
  • Litter Hotline; 866.811.1222


  • $19M Taxpayer dollars
  • ADOT crews pick up and average of 151,000 bags per year- Phoenix area
  • 1.6 Million pounds of trash per year
  • Litter Hotline: 877.354.8837


  • $62M Taxpayer dollars  per year to pick up roadside litter
  • California Department of Transportation, Division of Maintenance spends a total of approximately 41 million* dollars on litter remova
  • $375.2 M Taxpayer dollars  is the projected annual cost to public agencies for litter prevention, clean up and disposal
  • Littering Fine- $1000 misdeameanor
  • Don’t Trash California- Cost


  • $5.6 M Taxpayer Dollars to remove 145,486 cubic yards of trash (2004-2005)
  • Fiscal Year 2008 removed 116,000 cubic yards of trash



  • $25-30M is spent pickingup street and alley litter
  • Biggest litter offenders 6-24 year olds



  • $10 M Taxpayer dollars per year to pick up roadside trash
  • Litter Fines are up to $5,000.00


  • $17 M Taxpayer Dollars are spent per year to clean up roadside trash. (2003)
  • 3 out of 4 Georgia motorists say they have seen trash thrown out of a vehicle, yet only 1 in 10 admit to littering from their vehicle.



  • Litter Fine-$300.00


  • $12M (2001) Taxpayer Dollars spent in roadside Trash



  • $13M Taxpayer Dollars
  • $4-5 Million For Trash Pick up
  • 200,000 hours spent removing litter
  • 96,000 bags of litter
  • $15M Taxpayer dollars are spent to pick up Roadside Trash
  • $11.2 Taxpayer Dollars for Trash pickup
  • $2M Taxpayer Dollars spent on roadside trash
  • Litter rates are 30% higher than other states average
  • 62% of Litter is deliberate
  • 75% of persons deliberately littering are males between the ages of 11-34 years
  • $6.6 M Taxpayer Dollars spent for roadside pickup
  • $1M From Adopt a Highway Program
  • No MOre Trash
  • 2008 Trash Bash- 84,000 bags of litter picked up
New Hampshire
New Jersey
  • 2 Million Taxpayer Dollars spent for roadside pickup only
  • 18,140 Tons of Trash (2007)
  • Litter Hotline: 800.867.7666
New York
  • $16.6 M Taxpayer Dollars were spent to pick up roadside litter (2007)
  • Adopt a Highway (2007) Collected 3,594,500 pounds of trash)
  • 10.1 Million pounds and 677,984 bags were collected in roadway litter.
North Dakota
  • 3.5 Million Taxpayer Dollars were spent to pick up roadside litter
  • Litter Hotline- 888.554.8837
  • 2.3M Taxpayer Dollars to pick up only roadside Trash
  • 159,600 Orange Bags of Trash
  • 54 Tons of Trash were picked up at the Oregon Beach Cleanup
  • 10.1 Million Taxpayer dollars cleaning up roadside litter only
  • Cost Approx; $835/Ton to clean up an illegal dumpsite (1000’s in PA)
  • Litter Hotline-1.888.litterbug
Rhode Island
  • 2.2 Million pounds were picked up in 2004 Great American Cleanup
South Dakota
  • $11M Taxpayer dollars are spent picking up  roadside trash
  • 12,000,000 Miles are driver/year to pick up litter
  • 18% of all littered items end up in streams and waterways as pollution.
  • Tennessee Trash Blog
  • Fines- up to $500
  • 71% of the litter was generated by males 15-34
  • Approximately 827 million pieces of litter accumulate on Texas roadways each year
  • Not an Inmate: Forty percent of Texans believe prisoners are responsible for cleaning up the highways. Only 6 percent correctly guessed paid contractors are the prime labor source, and your tax dollars are paying for it.
  • If every litterer in Texas picked up just six pieces of trash every month, our highways would be completely litter-free.
  • $1.8M Taxpayer Dollars on Roadside Trash
  • 60% for UCI Prison Crews ($500/day)
  • 99,600 Orange Trash bags filled
  • $25M Taxpayer dollars are spent collecting roadside litter
Item Number found Per Cent of Total
1. Cigarettes/Cigarette Filters 28,600 19.5 %
2. Beverage Bottles (Plastic) 2 liters or less 24,638 16.8 %
3. Food Wrappers and Containers 17,831 12.2 %
4. Bags 13,973 9.5 %
5. Beverage Cans 11,147 7.6 %
6. Beverage Bottles (Glass) 9,885 6.7 %
7. Cups/Plates/Forks/Knives/Spoons 7,796 5.3 %
8. Caps/Lids 5,464 3.7 %
9. Building Supplies 4,728 3.2 %
10. Straws/Stirrers 2,429 1.7 %

In 2007, these ten categories represented 86.2 % of the trash picked up from Virginia’s rivers and beaches. Cigarette butts are on top of the list. Food and beverage packaging dominate the rest of the list. Building supplies (often construction waste) made Virginia’s Top Ten for the first time.

  • Hampton Roads spends over $2 million each year to collect and dispose of litter.
  • The combined litter efforts of the Community Litter Cleanup Program, Ecology Youth Corps, Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Corrections


  • Total Hours=351,487
  • Total pounds of litter=6,2837,710 pounds of litter
  • Total illegal dump site=5,366

West Virginia

  • $1M to Remove litter from State Hwys.
  • Litter Fines=$50-$2,000



  • Other Costs not included in above
  • Scott Geller made reference to the following litter statistics from studies conducted between 1970 and 1975:

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  1. Michelle says


    Other Costs not included in above
    Scott Geller made reference to the following litter statistics from studies conducted between 1970 and 1975: ”

    typo, just letting you know, “:” means something should come after..

    love your site! thanks for trying to help the earth.

  2. mark c. wood says

    i wish i could go to some town and get people and bussinesses to pay me a fee per bag! just think of the unemployment problem!it could realy help alot of folks like the homeless or any one who might just some extra money

  3. Herb says

    The numbers seem a little too rounded for state budget means, some citations would be not only appreciated but necessary to consider this post accurate/relevant.

  4. says

    Dear Editor,

    Please give consideration to publishing the following opportunity for our nation’s youth groups, clubs and organizations. This opportunity is supported with attachments of success stories and references for your review.

    I share this information with any and all media outlets as I travel throughout the United States.

    If you publish this story, please send us a link so we may add your organization to our list of media organizations that have helped us share this opportunity with our nation’s youth.

    Gary Chamberlain, Folksville USA
    America the Beautiful & BagReadyJobs
    (928) 202-1186

    “America the Beautiful & BagReadyJobs”
    Empowering our nation’s youth

    As proud Americans, will we honor our Armed Forces, veterans and communities by participating in the “America the Beautiful and BagReadyJobs” effort?

    The “America the Beautiful & BagReadyJobs” effort is being used as a teaching, learning and earning opportunity for our nation’s youth groups. “BagReadyJobs” is funded by community businesses and residents.

    Youth groups will learn how to develop marketing, sales, service and billing skills for their services rendered. Youth groups will negotiate fees with their local businesses and residents for picking up the litter on the highway and filling 33 gallon bags. The youth groups will work with their local Adopt-a-Highway groups and assist them in their efforts to restore the beauty to “America the Beautiful”.

    The businesses and residents that pledge funding or products to the youth groups will negotiate a fee between $7 and 10 for every 33 gallon bag of trash the youth group fills to the brim.

    The nation’s official Adopt-A-Highway group leaders will document the participation of the youth groups and the number of bags they fill. The youth groups will provide a copy of the Adopt-A-Highway group leader’s confirmation of their participation and the number of bags they filled to their funding sponsors.

    In addition to displaying the trash-filled bags on the highway for 4 days as part of creating an awareness, education and recognition opportunity, the youth groups are required to write an essay that addresses the following five questions. The youth groups are to provide a copy of their essays to those funding their activities and to their local news media organizations.

    The essay questions are:
    1) What did you learn?
    2) What solutions might reverse the occurrence of highway litter and recycling efforts?
    3) How does highway litter impact the economy of your community?
    4) In addition to the negative economic effects, how does highway litter reflect on the residents?
    5) What will you do to do to make a difference?

    Those providing funding will pay the youth groups for their services once all of the obligations have been fulfilled.

    “America the Beautiful and BagReadyJobs” litter events are being promoted nationwide on the third Saturday of February, May, August and November, however, many Adopt-A-Highway groups select random dates for their cleanup activities. Our goal is to connect America’s Adopt-A-Highway groups needing help with youth groups wanting to help. Folksville USA would like to receive copies of the essays written so we may share them with others.

    “America the Beautiful and BagReadyJobs” is the perfect opportunity for city and town leaders to challenge their community businesses and residents to support local youth groups that want to earn their funding. These young adults are our future role models and leaders. Recycling activities and getting some exercise are additional benefits that can be realized through this effort.

    The contact information for the 50 state Adopt-A-Highway Coordinators is available by contacting Folksville USA. If you publish this story or have questions, please let us know.

    Gary Chamberlain, FVUSA
    “America the Beautiful & BagReadyJobs”
    Empowering our nation’s youth
    (928) 202-1186


  1. […] What a lot of people don’t tend to realize, specifically young people is that cleaning up that litter is coming out of your pocket. found that in 2003 17 million taxpayer dollars were used to clean up roadside trash in Georgia. In Louisiana, 15 million taxpayer dollars were used. To find out about other states you can look on their website. […]

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