Keep America Beautiful Releases Largest Study on Litter in America

May 19, 2021 – Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful today reports that Keep America Beautiful® has announced the summary of its 2020 study on litter in America. Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful is part of the national organization’s network of 700 state and community-based affiliates.

The Keep America Beautiful 2020 National Litter Study provides a detailed understanding of the quantity, composition, and sources of litter across the United States. The organization’s 2020 study is a follow up to its landmark 2009 study, which builds on a history of science-based litter research started by Keep America Beautiful in 1969.

“I am thrilled to continue the history of Keep America Beautiful as the leader in litter research in the United States, and methodology that has now been used around the world,” said Dr. Helen Lowman, Keep America Beautiful President and CEO. “This data will help inform our programs for years to come addressing both litter on the ground and the act of littering. Our many diverse partners, our 700 affiliate organizations, and the millions of volunteers activated annually will use this data to work towards our vision that everyone in America lives in a beautiful community.”

Key findings include:

  • Nearly 50 billion pieces of litter along U.S. roadways and waterways
  • Slightly more litter along waterways (25.9B) than roadways (23.7B)
  • 152 items for each U.S. resident
  • More than 2,000 pieces of litter per mile (both roadway and waterway)
  • 90% of people surveyed believe litter is a problem in their state
  • 6 billion pieces more than 4 inches in size
  • Most littered item remains cigarette butts, but this litter is down almost 70%
  • 1M PPE items littered

“I congratulate Keep America Beautiful for completing this litter study. Litter is a pervasive problem in Pennsylvania. In partnership with the Pennsylvania Departments of Environmental Protection and Transportation, in 2020 we released the Pennsylvania Litter Research Study which identified over 500 million pieces of litter along Pennsylvania roadways, 2,018 pieces per mile. Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful also released The Cost of Litter and Illegal Dumping in Pennsylvania which found that just nine municipalities spent over 65 million dollars on litter and illegal dumping; 80% on cleanups. Since the release of these reports, the pandemic has only compounded the litter and illegal dumping problems across Pennsylvania. Businesses and communities all across the Commonwealth are reeling with the high economic and environmental costs of litter,” explains Shannon Reiter, President of Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful.

Reiter believes that data from these reports will help inform and guide Pennsylvania stakeholders as they develop the state’s first Litter Action Plan to reduce littering in Pennsylvania. Reiter explains “The Litter Action Plan, sponsored by the Pennsylvania Departments of Environmental Protection and Transportation, will guide the strategic investment in solid waste disposal and recycling infrastructure, education and outreach, and provide for a thoughtful evaluation of enforcement of existing litter and illegal dumping laws. While absolutely necessary, cleanups alone are not going to solve the problem.” To learn more about Pennsylvania’s Litter Action Plan, visit https://dep.pa.gov/litteringactionplan.

Keep America Beautiful retained Burns & McDonnell, a leading environmental engineering firm, to conduct its 2020 Study, which has four components: Public Attitudes Survey, Visible Litter Survey, Behavioral Observations Survey, and Financial Cost of Litter Survey (ongoing).

Sponsors of the Keep America Beautiful 2020 National Litter Study include dozens of individuals, corporations, industry groups, and foundations highlighting our belief in the strength of bringing everyone to the table. The largest supporters include Altria, American Beverage Association, American Chemistry Council, Dow, Food Packaging Institute, Garver Hilyard Black Foundation, National Association of Convenience Stores, Plastics Industry Association and Santa Fe Natural Tobacco.

The full summary of the report, Litter in America is available here. The Pennsylvania Litter Research Study and The Cost of Littering in Pennsylvania are available here, https://www.keeppabeautiful.org/about-us/publications/.

About Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful

Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful’s vision is a clean and beautiful Pennsylvania. Since 1990, Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful has worked with hundreds of thousands of volunteers across the state to pick up nearly 148 million pounds of trash from Pennsylvania’s roadways, waterways, greenways, vacant lots, forestlands and other community spaces. Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful’s core programming focuses on litter and illegal dump prevention, cleanup, community greening, and proper waste handling and sustainable practices.  Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful works with many partnering organizations on the state and grassroots level to accomplish our goal of a clean and beautiful Pennsylvania.  Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful is the state affiliate of Keep America Beautiful, Inc., the nation’s largest volunteer-based community action and education organization. To learn more about Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful, visit www.keeppabeautiful.org.

About Keep America Beautiful 
Keep America Beautiful, the nation’s leading community improvement nonprofit organization, inspires and educates people to take action every day to improve and beautify their community environment. Established in 1953, Keep America Beautiful strives to End Littering, Improve Recycling, and Beautify America’s Communities. We believe everyone has a right to live in a clean, green, and beautiful community, and shares a responsibility to contribute to that vision. The organization is driven by the work and passion of nearly 700 Keep America Beautiful affiliates, millions of volunteers, and the collaborative support of corporate partners, social and civic service organizations, academia, municipalities, elected officials, and individuals. Join us on Facebook,InstagramTwitter, and YouTube. Donate and take action at kab.org.

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