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Washington state’s first litter study in almost two decades finds that 37.8 million pounds of waste are littered yearly, comprising more than 7 billion items.

September 13, 2023

1 Min Read
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Washington state’s first litter study in almost two decades finds that 37.8 million pounds of waste are littered yearly, comprising more than 7 billion items.

Those millions of pounds of waste translate to about 84 pieces of trash for each person or about five pounds. Seattle’s Cascadia Consulting Group worked with the Washington State Department of Energy to complete what is being called a “comprehensive litter study” for 2022. The last study of this kind was done in 2004.

Litter was collected from 182 randomly selected areas in the state. These sites were made up of five main groups: parks and recreational areas, rest areas, roadways, and on- and off-ramps. The collected litter was sorted, counted, and weighed, and then an estimation was calculated for the yearly average pounds and pieces of litter statewide.

18.5 million pounds of litter out of the 37.8 million pounds were found on roadways. An average of 8,112 pieces of litter per mile were found on Washington roads. The national average is 5,714 pieces per mile according to a study done by Keep America Beautiful.

“The volume of litter on our roadways really stuck out to me,” Department of Ecology litter prevention coordinator Amber Smith-Jones said. “The fact that our interstate highways are getting more than 73,000 pieces of litter per mile was a big deal because interstates are also the most difficult to clean. Litter pickup is dangerous work. It is expensive work.”

The study showed that the most common type of litter was plastic film wrapping for boxes, plastic mailing pouches, air pillows, shrink wrap, and bubble wrap. Cigarette butts are the most tossed item in the state by a large margin.

Read the full article here.

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