Recreation Management Rec Report - The Newsletter for Recreation, Sports & Fitness Facility Managers

Feature Story

May 2021


Keep America Beautiful Releases Study on Litter in America

Keep America Beautiful released data from its 2020 study on litter in America. The Keep America Beautiful 2020 National Litter Study provides a comprehensive understanding of the quantity, composition and sources of litter along roadways, waterways and in non-roadway areas across the United States.

The 2020 study is a follow-up to the landmark 2009 study, building on a history of science-based litter research started by Keep America Beautiful in 1969. Leading engineering, architecture and construction firm Burns & McDonnell conducted the 2020 study, which has four components: Public Attitudes Survey, Visible Litter Survey, Behavioral Observations Survey, and Financial Cost of Litter Survey (ongoing).

The data reveal that litter is down on American roadways by 54% since 2009, but there are still 50 billion pieces of litter on the ground in the United States.

For the first time, the study provides a valid, national estimate of litter along waterways in the United States, with insights about the relationship between litter on waterways and roadways. The study shows that, although roadway litter is down by more than 50%, there is slightly more litter along waterways.

Additional key findings include:

  • 90% of U.S. residents agree that litter is a problem in their state.
  • Of the 50 billion pieces of litter, 24 billion are along roadways and 26 billion are along waterways.
  • An estimated 207 million PPE items were littered on U.S. roadways and waterways through early fall 2020.
  • More than 2,000 pieces of litter per mile.

Keep America Beautiful quantifies that if littering were to stop today and waste were properly managed, and every American picked up 152 pieces of litter at the same time, we would have a litter-free nation.

"Behavior change is at the root of Keep America Beautiful," said Helen Lowman, Ph.D., president and CEO. "With the unity of Americans to pick up 152 pieces of litter—and ultimately, to stop littering—we can ensure that everyone lives in a clean and litter-free community."


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