by:  Leslie Jones

We’ve talked about throwing trash into the landfill.  We’ve talked about recycling.  But what do we do with items that we don’t put in either place? Toss it out the window?  Throw it on the sidewalk?  Well, “75% of Americans Admit to Littering within the last 5 years."*  The fact that 3 out of 4 people admitted to doing something my 4-year old knows not to do is very alarming.

Who does most of this littering?  

Well, statistics show that, "Most common litter offenders are:

  • >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"* 


People think litter is a victimless crime....well, that 75% doesn’t actually consider it a crime....but anyway, they think it doesn’t impact other people. In reality, somebody has to pick it up.  If nobody does, litter could end up contaminating our groundwater leading to potentially hazardous drinking water. “About 18 percent of litter, usually traveling through stormwater systems, ends up in local streams, rivers, and waterways.

Litter also carries substantial cost to the economy. Cleaning up litter in the U.S. costs hundreds of dollars per ton, about ten times more than the cost of trash disposal, for a cost totaling about $11 billion per year.

Cigarette butts are the most littered item in the world, with 4.5 trillion discarded annually. The cellulose acetate butts are not biodegradable and, as a result, their chemical decomposition can take many decades.”**

Why do people litter?

Many theories have been formed on this very question. Statistics show:

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

“Other causes are inconvenience, entitlement and economic conditions. A survey of dumping in Pennsylvania found that the largest number of illegal dumps were in townships without municipal trash hauling. The same report also cites unavailability of curbside trash and recycling service, shortage of enforcement, and habit as possible causes. The presence of litter invites more littering.

In addition to intentional littering, almost half of litter on U.S. roadways is now a result of accidental or unintentional litter, usually debris that falls off of improperly secured trash, recycling collection vehicles and pickup trucks."**  Hundreds, if not thousands, of motor vehicle accidents are caused by litter, intentional or unintentional, each year in the United States.

What can be done?

As stated in a previous article titled, “Have You Heard of the Garbage Barge”, “A number of U.S. states, including California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, and Vermont have passed laws that establish deposits or refund values on beverage containers...."***  Also, as a whole, we could:

  • "Set a good example
  • Teach kids the value of a clean environment
  • Choose not to litter. Ever.
  • Remind others not to litter and explain why litter is a bad thing.
  • Get a litter bag or portable ash receptacles. If you see litter, pick it up. Dispose of full litter bags appropriately.
  • Volunteer in your community for organized litter cleanup events."****

If you litter, don’t.  If you don’t, don’t start. Litter is the cause of some very serious problems.  Not all environmental problems are preventable, but this is one we can greatly reduce if we all do our part.

At Borden Waste-Away, we are proud to serve Northern Indiana and Southern Michigan in keeping our environment free of trash.  Please help us to continue this effort through proper disposal and recycling.