Litter by the Letter

Keep America Beautiful conducts massive littering study.

Stamford, Ct.-based nonprofit Keep America Beautiful (KAB) recently released the results of what it calls the largest litter study ever conducted in the United States. It identifies and dissects the causes, effects and costs of litter in America, and is the first major national survey of U.S. litter in 40 years.

Among the findings:

  • Since 1968, the amount of litter in America has decreased by 61 percent.

  • Litter incurs direct costs of at least $11.5 billion per year.

  • At least 51.2 billion pieces of litter are left on U.S. roadways annually, an average of 6,729 pieces of litter per mile.

  • Most (81 percent) of the littering observed in the study was committed “with intent” by the individual, and was mainly attributable to lack of individual awareness or sense of obligation.

  • Fifteen percent of all littering can be attributed to context. The strongest contextual contributor to littering is the prevalence of existing litter. Other contextual variables are the number of trash or ash receptacles present, and the distance between receptacles.

“Our research clearly shows that while major progress has been made in reducing litter, more remains to be done,” said Matthew M. McKenna, president and CEO of KAB, in a press release. “By combining strong, targeted public education and outreach with a better infrastructure of trash, ash and recycling receptacles, communities can reduce litter and its costly impact.”

KAB's research included behavioral studies of nearly 10,000 individuals in 130 locations in 10 states. Find the full study at

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