Litter: Unnatural, Unsightly, Unsafe

Litter is not a natural phenomenon.

There is a person and a behavior behind every piece of debris that becomes litter. Whether it is a cigarette butt, a sandwich wrapper, a disposable drink cup, a bag of trash, or an old refrigerator, someone had to handle it before it ended up in the wrong place. As a result, over 51 billion pieces of litter land along U.S. roads each year, and 80% of that ends up in our streams, rivers, ponds, lakes, and oceans.

Why? Sometimes people aren’t careful with waste. They forget to cover their trash containers on a windy day or drop a wrapper and don’t stop to pick it up. But at other times, people litter on purpose, throwing cigarette butts on the ground or even throwing bags of trash into roadside ditches. Others dump broken appliances or old furniture on vacant lots. Litter cleanup costs the U.S. almost $11.5 billion each year, taking money away from education and other services in our communities.

How can you reduce litter? To begin, don’t litter! If you drop something on the ground, stop and pick it up. Wait until you see a recycling bin or trash can so you can dispose of your waste properly. Keep a small bag in the car for trash. When you set out your trash and recyclables, make sure the lids on containers are closed, garbage bags are tied shut, and heavier recyclables are on top of lighter ones to prevent loose trash blowing away. And, please, don’t ever dump trash, bulky items, or recyclables where they don’t belong, especially on the ground!

You can help! Please pick up litter when you see it. Or, join a community cleanup. It’s a fun way to spend time with friends, neighbors, or co-workers who also care about keeping your neighborhood clean.

For more information about litter and its effects, visit Keep America Beautiful.

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