Littering is Wrong Too!

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Our Litter Problem

Is litter really a big problem?
Who litters?
Why do people litter?
If some of the littering is unintentional, what's the big deal?
I throw my banana peel out my car window sometimes. It's “biodegradable” or “organic” so that's not littering, right?
What can I do to stop litter?
How do you know the campaign will work?

About the Campaign

What is the “Littering is Wrong Too” campaign?
What is the main goal of the campaign?
What can I do to help?


Our Litter Problem

Back to topIs litter really a big problem?

Unfortunately, yes. KAB has nearly 600 certified affiliates across the country who know first-hand just how bad litter can be, and how pervasive. They also know that litter typically impacts all areas of a town. Here are some facts

  • Litter invites more litter. Once litter has accumulated along a road or in a community, people are more likely to keep littering.
  • Over 51 billion pieces of litter land on U.S. roadways each year.  Most of it, 46.6 billion pieces, is less than four inches, according to KAB’s National Visible Litter Survey and Litter Cost Study. That’s 6,729 items per mile.
  • Litter cleanup costs the U.S. almost $11.5 billion each year, with businesses paying $9.1 billion.  Governments, schools, and other organizations pick up the remainder.
  • Community economy and quality of life suffer.  The presence of litter in a community takes a toll on quality of life, property values, and housing prices.  Our 2009 National Visible Litter Survey and Litter Cost Study found that litter in a community decreases property values 7 percent.
  • Litter has environmental consequences.  Wind and weather, traffic, and animals move litter into gutters, lawns and landscaped areas, alleyways, and parking structures.  Debris may be carried by storm drains into local waterways, with potential for serious environmental contamination.
  • The types of litter found most often include bottles, cans and fast food packaging, plastic shopping bags and cigarette butts.
  • Eighty percent of our waterways are littered with trash that was dropped on land.
  • Litter is not only morally wrong; it’s illegal in all 50 states. While every state may vary, punishment can include a fine as well as jail time for littering and illegal dumping.
  • For more facts about litter, check out our website.

Back to topWho litters?

Unfortunately many people litter. And they may be members of your family, your friends… even you. Research shows that individuals under 30 are more likely to litter than those who are older.  In fact, age, and not gender, is a significant predictor of littering behavior. 

This campaign is meant to shine a light on the act of littering and to help us all see that it’s an unaccepted and wrong behavior, just like buying sushi at a gas station. Gross!

Back to topWhy do people litter?

That’s a complicated question with no easy answer.  Our research shows that people often litter because they have no sense of ownership, even though parks and waterfronts are really owned by us all.

Another common reason for littering is the belief that “someone else will pick it up for me.” Some REAL jerks even use the excuse that they’re creating jobs for people who clean up. Well, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Those “cleaner-uppers” are often paid for by your tax dollars or the extra money you pay for products and services at local businesses.

Most of the time litter invites more litter. Once litter has accumulated along a road or in a community, people are more likely to keep littering in that location. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of laziness. If there is no garbage or recycling container nearby, some people will just throw their garbage in a spot that is convenient to them (which can be anywhere from a parking lot to a public park). In other cases, people don’t want to cross a street or walk a few feet to where a garbage receptacle is located.

Also, sometimes people litter and don’t realize it. Unintentional litter, such as litter that flies out of the window of your car, from an uncovered container, or the back of a pick-up truck, is still litter.

Back to topIf some of the littering is unintentional, what's the big deal?

Because unintentionally littering is still littering and it actually contributes to a large portion of the litter found across the country. So take a few extra moments to secure your garbage to keep it from becoming litter.

Back to topI throw my banana peel out my car window sometimes. It's “biodegradable” or “organic” so that's not littering, right?

WRONG! Think about it – would you want someone throwing stuff in YOUR yard, biodegradable or not?

Littering is putting an item where it does not belong, like the ground. So, unless you’re driving through a banana farm, that peel is litter.  Organic or not, it is still an eyesore and leads to more litter. And it can also attract bugs and other hungry animals, generate odors and it doesn’t actually decompose quickly.

Back to topWhat can I do to stop litter?

So glad you asked! Here are a few ideas:

  • First, don’t litter. Set a good example for your friends, kids and neighbors. Even an apple core is considered litter.
  • Never throw trash out of your car window. Also, be aware when driving with your windows open. Loose items like paper or candy wrappers can fly out easily.
  • Place a bag in your car to collect personal trash (or recyclables) instead of tossing them.
  • At home, secure the lids on your trash and recycling containers, especially when you set them out on collection day.
  • When recycling at the curb, secure or bundle loose papers and other light objects tightly so they won’t get carried away with the wind.
  • Secure loads and remove trash from the back of your pickup truck. Even larger items can fly out when you are traveling at high speeds. This is also very dangerous.
  • If you smoke, never throw your cigarette butts on the ground. Cigarette butts, while small, actually constitute a large part of existing litter.
  • Get involved in a community clean up. KAB affiliates organize regular clean-up programs. It’s an easy way to see the problem first-hand and to do something about it. Find an affiliate near you.
  • If you see litter, pick it up. Even if it’s one chip bag or straw wrapper – that’s one less piece of litter on the street.
  • Clean up after your dog. Yes, that’s litter too!

About the Campaign

Back to topWhat is the “Littering is Wrong Too” campaign?

Last summer Keep Cincinnati Beautiful launched a new litter prevention campaign called “Littering is Wrong Too”. Keep America Beautiful, a national nonprofit that works to promote litter prevention, waste reduction, recycling and beautification, chose Cincinnati as a pilot community for this national litter prevention campaign.

The campaign takes a unique and light-hearted approach to get attention and be remembered. It links littering with wrongdoing, while also defining the personality of the litterer as a socially unaccepted jerk and vilifies the choice they make to litter.

The campaign will likely reach all residents but it's really geared at those 18-34 years old, identified as the worst offenders of litter.

Back to topWhat is the main goal of the campaign?

The ultimate goal of the campaign is to change perceptions of those who litter and the act of littering, to induce a long-term change in behavior and lead to a cleaner, more beautiful city.

But first, the campaign needs to get your attention, and then get you talking and thinking about litter. Many people don’t regularly talk about the problem of litter, or even perceive it as a problem, and this campaign aims to change that.

By comparing littering to other wrong (and ridiculous) behaviors like groping the delivery room nurse or networking at a funeral, the campaign communicates just how wrong it is to litter.

Back to topWhat can I do to help?

Well, first, don’t litter. If you think you don’t litter, think again. Think about all of the places you’ve visited this week and all of the times you hung out with your friends or family. You may have unintentionally left a straw wrapper on a picnic table or thrown an apple core out of the window of your car. Or, you may have seen someone else litter, like a friend, and didn’t say or do anything about it.

Second, pledge your support by “writing your own wrong”, vote on wrongs and share the campaign with your friends.   

And third, recognize that litter is a problem, and will continue to be a problem, until we all take a stand.

Back to topHow do you know the campaign will work?

Last summer KAB conducted a pilot campaign in Cincinnati in partnership with Keep Cincinnati Beautiful. After three months we saw first-hand just how much people embraced the campaign. While true behavior change does not happen overnight, the test period did reveal initial success. More than 1,200 wrongs were submitted online and research indicated a direct increase in awareness for the campaign and more importantly the problem and importance of litter.

Affiliates across the country will be launching their own Littering Is Wrong Too campaigns to generate local buzz and get people talking about litter. This is an important first step. We encourage you to also consider making longer term changes in your life and get involved at the local level.