Litter consists of waste products that have been discarded incorrectly, without consent, at an unsuitable location. Litter can also be used as a verb; to litter means to drop and leave objects, often man-made, such as aluminum cans, paper cups, fast food wrappers, cardboard boxes or plastic bottles on the ground, and leave them there indefinitely or for other people to dispose of as opposed to disposing of them correctly.
Large and hazardous items of rubbish such as tires, electrical appliances, electronics, batteries and large industrial containers are sometimes dumped in isolated locations, such as national forests and other public lands.
It is a human impact on the environment and remains a serious environmental problem in many countries. Litter can exist in the environment for long periods of time before decomposition and be transported over large distances into the world's oceans. Litter can affect the quality of life.
Cigarette butts are the most littered item in the world, with 4.5 trillion discarded each year.Estimates on the required time for cigarette butts to break down vary, ranging from five years to 400 years for complete degradation.
In addition to intentional littering, almost half of litter on U.S. roadways is now accidental or unintentional litter, usually debris that falls off improperly secured trash, recycling collection vehicles and pickup trucks.Population levels, traffic density and proximity to waste disposal sites are factors known to correlate with higher litter rates.
Illegally dumped hazardous waste may be a result of the costs of dropping materials at designated sites: some of these charge a fee for depositing hazardous material.Lack of access to nearby facilities that accept hazardous waste may deter use. Additionally, ignorance of the laws that regulate the proper disposal of hazardous waste may cause improper disposal.
According to a study by the Dutch organization VROM, 80% of people claim that "everybody leaves a piece of paper, tin or something, on the street behind".Young people from 12 to 24 years cause more litter than the average (Dutch or Belgian) person; only 18% of people who regularly cause litter were 50 years of age or older. However, a 2010 survey of littering in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont in the United States, placed litterers aged 55 and over at less than 5%. The same observational study estimated that 78% of litterers are male. In 1999, research by Keep America Beautiful found that 75% of Americans admitted to littering the last five years, yet 99% of the same individuals admitted that they enjoyed a clean environment.
Negligent or lenient law enforcement contributes to littering behavior. Other causes are inconvenience, entitlement and economic conditions. A survey of dumping in Pennsylvania found that the largest number of illegal dumps were in townships without municipal trash hauling.The same report also cites unavailability of curbside trash and recycling service, shortage of enforcement, and habit as possible causes. The presence of litter invites more littering.
The two-stage process model of littering behavior describes the different ways in which people litter. The model was proposed by Chris Sibley and James Liu and differentiates between two types of littering: active and passive.
The theory has implications for understanding the different types of litter reduction interventions that will most effectively reduce littering in a given environment. The theory states that, all things being equal, passive littering will be more resistant to change because of two psychological processes: 1. diffusion of responsibility that increases as the latency between when an individual places litter in the environment and when they vacate the territory, and 2. forgetting, which is also more likely to occur at longer delays between when an individual places litter in the environment and when they vacate the territory.
Litter can remain visible for extended periods of time before it eventually biodegrades, with some items made of condensed glass, styrofoam or plastic possibly remaining in the environment for over a million years.
About 18 percent of litter, usually traveling through stormwater systems, ends up in local streams, rivers, and waterways. Uncollected litter can accrete and flow into streams, local bays and estuaries. Litter in the ocean either washes up on beaches or collects in Ocean gyres such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. About 80 percent of marine debris comes from land-based sources.
Some litter that is collected can be recycled, however degraded litter cannot be recycled and eventually degrades to sludge, often toxic. The majority of litter that is collected goes to landfills.
Litter can have a detrimental impact on humans and the environment in different ways.
Hazardous materials encapsulated within tires and other items of illegally dumped rubbish can leach into water sources, contaminate the soil and pollute the air.
Tires are the most often dumped hazardous waste.[ citation needed ] In 2007 the United States generated 262 million scrap tires. Thirty-eight states have laws that ban whole tires being deposited in landfills. Many of these discarded tires end up illegally dumped on public lands. Tires can become a breeding ground for insect vectors which can transmit disease to humans. Mosquitoes, which breed in stagnant water, can transmit West Nile virus and malaria. Rodents nest in accumulated tires and can transmit diseases such as Hantavirus.
When tires are burned, they can smolder for long periods of time, emitting hundreds of chemical compounds that pollute the air causing respiratory illnesses. Additionally the residue left behind can harm the soil and leach into groundwater.
Visual pollution is a major effect of litter.
Open containers such as paper cups, cardboard food packets, plastic drink bottles and aluminum drinks cans get filled up with rainwater, providing breeding locations for mosquitoes. In addition, a spark or a lightning flash can start a fire if it strikes litter such as a paper bag or cardboard box.
Litter can be hazardous to health. Debris falling from vehicles is an increasing cause of automobile accidents.Discarded dangerous goods, chemicals, tires, sharps waste and pathogens resulting from litter can cause accidental harm to humans.
Litter also carries substantial cost to the economy. Cleaning up litter in the US costs hundreds of dollars per ton, about ten times more than the cost of trash disposal, with a cost totaling about $11 billion per year.
Animals may get trapped or poisoned with litter in their habitats. Cigarette butts and filters are a threat to wildlife and have been found in the stomachs of fish, birds and whales, who have mistaken them for food. Also animals can get trapped in the rubbish and be in serious discomfort. For example, the plastic used to hold beverage cans together can get wrapped around animals' necks and cause them to suffocate as they grow. Other instances where animals could be harmed by litter include broken glass lacerating the paws of dogs, cats, and other small mammals.
Most litter in Victoria, Australia ends up in or near oceans, beaches or rivers.
Organic litter in large amounts can cause water pollution and lead to algal blooms.Cigarettes could also start fires if they are not put out and then discarded in the environment.
Litter is an environmental concern in many countries around the world. While countries in the developing world lack the resources to deal with the issue, consumer based economies in the western world are capable of generating larger quantities of litter per capita due to a higher consumption of disposable products.
A number of credible studies have shown that fast food packaging is one of the most common forms of litter while McDonald's is the most common brand of litter, despite having messages to dispose of properly, such as the Ronald McDonald "tidy man" marking.According to Keep Britain Tidy in 2013, Cadbury chocolate wrappers, Walkers crisp packets and Coca-Cola cans were the three top brands that were the most common pieces of rubbish found in UK streets.
Public waste containers or street bins are provided by local authorities to be used as a convenient place for the disposal and collection of litter. Increasingly both general waste and recycling options are provided. Local councils collect the waste and take it for reuse or recycling. However, there are some problems with this approach; if the bins are not emptied regularly, then the bins will overflow and can increase litter indirectly. Some local authorities will only take responsibility for rubbish that is placed in the bins, which means that litter remains a problem. People may blame a lack of well-placed bins for their littering. Hazardous materials may often be incorrectly disposed of in the bins and they can encourage dumpster diving.
Volunteers, sometimes alone or coordinated through organizations, pick up litter and dispose of it. Clean up events may be organized in which participants will sometimes comb an area in a line to ensure that no litter is missed. Organizations may promote litter cleanup events and may also have separate media campaigns to prevent littering.
In North America, Adopt a Highway programs are popular, in which companies and organizations commit to cleaning stretches of road. Keep America Beautiful has held litter cleanups called the Great America Cleanup since 1998 in over 20,000 communities nationwide.
Earth Day cleanups have been held globally since 1970. In 2019, Earth Day Network partnered with Keep America Beautiful and National Cleanup Day for the inaugural nationwide Earth Day CleanUp. Cleanups were held in all 50 States, 5 US Territories, 5,300 sites and had more than 500,000 volunteers.
Commercial properties such as retail, office and industrial have litter picking maintenance programs. This service may be provided by property owners or contracted to various service providers by property management companies acting on owner's behalf. Litter picking is performed on foot using simple hand tools. A worker will walk the sidewalks, parking lot and landscape and sweep up litter material into a litter collection tool. Contents are emptied into a waste bin on job site.
In Kiwayu, a Kenyan island, some of the collected litter (flip-flops) is used to make art, which is then sold.
Litter traps can be used to capture litter as it exits stormwater drains into waterways. However, litter traps are only effective for large or floating items of litter and must be maintained. A recent watershed litter survey showed a difference in the composition of street litter and stormwater litter.
Increasingly, there have been efforts to use technology to monitor areas prone to dumping. In Japan, a study used Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to map areas of dumping based on site characteristics.Another study used satellite images to detect possible illegal dumping sites.
Container deposit legislation can be aimed at both reducing littering and also encouraging picking up through local recycling programs that offer incentives, particularly for aluminium cans, glass bottles and plastic bottles. In New York, an expanded bottle bill that included plastic water bottles increased recycling rates and generated 120 million dollars in revenue to the state General Fund from unclaimed deposits in 2010.
In some countries such as Germany and the Netherlands, container deposit legislation has been introduced on cans and plastic bottles. Parts of Belgium are also considering adopting such legislation.People can thus collect refund value money from this type of waste. The result of this is that in Germany, hardly any cans or plastic bottles can still be found along the road. In the Netherlands, the amount of litter has dropped considerably since the new law was implemented, and 95% of the plastic bottles are now recycled. According to Chris Snick, the revenue that can be obtained from waste picking can be financially profitable in countries where container deposit legislation has been introduced: in 1 hour he managed to pick up 108 cans and 31 plastic bottles, earning him 13.90 euro (€0.10 per can/plastic bottle). By comparison, in countries where only the value of the aluminum for example would be refunded, 139 cans would yield only 1.72 euro (0.0124 euro per can; assuming there is 15 grams of aluminum in a can, and with scrap aluminum valued at 0.8267 euro/kg ).
Some countries and local authorities have introduced legislation to address the problem.
Actions resulting in fines can include on-the-spot fines for individuals administered by authorised officers in public or on public transport or littering from a vehicle, in which the vehicle owner is fined - reported by either responsible officer or third party, sometimes online.
Specific legislation exists in the following countries:
Many groups exist with the aim of raising awareness and run campaigns including clean up events. World Cleanup Day is a worldwide campaign. TrashTag and Plogging are examples of individual scale litter movements.
In the United States there are a number of organizations running anti-litter campaigns. Keep America Beautiful was founded in 1953, and promulgated the word litterbug, coined by its partner the Ad Council in 1947.At least 38 states have high profile, government-recognized slogan campaigns, including Don't Mess with Texas; Let's Pick It Up New York; Don't Trash California; Take Pride in Florida; Keep Iowa Beautiful. National CleanUp Day is held annually on the Third Saturday in September.
In Australia, Clean Up Australia Day is supported by many major Australian companies, firms and volunteers alike. Anti-litter organizations include "Keep Australia Beautiful", founded in 1963. It created the popular "Do the Right Thing" campaign and its Tidy Towns competition became well known being a very competitive expression of civic pride.
Keep Britain Tidy is a British campaign run by the Keep Britain Tidy environmental charity, which is part funded by the UK government.
Throughout human history, people have disposed of unwanted materials onto streets, roadsides, in small local dumps or often in remote locations. Prior to reforms within cities in the mid-to-late 19th century, sanitation was not a government priority. The growing piles of waste led to the spread of disease.
Anti-littering legislation seems to have existed in ancient Greece, as is evidenced by a road marker discovered on the island of Paros, bearing the inscription "whoever drops their litter on the street owes 51 drachmae to whoever wishes to claim them".
To address the growing amount of waste generated in the United States, the Solid Waste Disposal Act of 1965 was enacted. In 1976 the Federal government amended the Solid Waste Disposal Act, creating the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), which requires a "cradle to grave"approach to the proper handling of potentially hazardous materials. RCRA gives authority to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate and enforce proper hazardous waste disposal. Many countries now have laws that require that household hazardous waste be deposited in a special location rather than sent to landfills with regular refuse. Household hazardous waste includes paints and solvents, chemicals, light bulbs, fluorescent lights, spray cans, and yard products such as fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and insecticides. Additionally, medical waste generated at home is considered a hazardous waste and must be disposed of properly.
Industrial waste is the waste produced by industrial activity which includes any material that is rendered useless during a manufacturing process such as that of factories, industries, mills, and mining operations. Types of industrial waste include dirt and gravel, masonry and concrete, scrap metal, oil, solvents, chemicals, scrap lumber, even vegetable matter from restaurants. Industrial waste may be solid, liquid or gaseous. It may be hazardous or non-hazardous waste. Hazardous waste may be toxic, ignitable, corrosive, reactive, or radioactive. Industrial waste may pollute the air, the soil, or nearby water sources, eventually ending up in the sea. Industrial waste is often mixed into municipal waste, making accurate assessments difficult. An estimate for the US goes as high as 7.6 billion tons of industrial waste produced every year. Most countries have enacted legislation to deal with the problem of industrial waste, but strictness and compliance regimes vary. Enforcement is always an issue.
Toxic waste is any unwanted material in all forms that can cause harm. Many of today's household products such as televisions, computers and phones contain toxic chemicals that can pollute the air and contaminate soil and water. Disposing of such waste is a major public health issue.
Keep America Beautiful is a Stamford, Connecticut-based nonprofit organization founded in 1953. It is the largest community improvement organization in the United States, with more than 600 state and community-based affiliate organizations and more than 1,000 partner organizations.
Illegal dumping, also called fly dumping or fly tipping (UK), is the dumping of waste illegally instead of using an authorized method such as kerbside collection or using an authorized rubbish dump. It is the illegal deposit of any waste onto land, including waste dumped or tipped on a site with no license to accept waste. The United States Environmental Protection Agency developed a “profile” of the typical illegal dumper. Characteristics of offenders include local residents, construction and landscaping contractors, waste removers, scrap yard operators, and automobile and tire repair shops.
Marine debris, also known as marine litter, is human-created waste that has deliberately or accidentally been released in a sea or ocean. Floating oceanic debris tends to accumulate at the center of gyres and on coastlines, frequently washing aground, when it is known as beach litter or tidewrack. Deliberate disposal of wastes at sea is called ocean dumping. Naturally occurring debris, such as driftwood, are also present.
Municipal solid waste (MSW), commonly known as trash or garbage in the United States and rubbish in Britain, is a waste type consisting of everyday items that are discarded by the public. "Garbage" can also refer specifically to food waste, as in a garbage disposal; the two are sometimes collected separately. In the European Union, the semantic definition is 'mixed municipal waste,' given waste code 20 03 01 in the European Waste Catalog. Although the waste may originate from a number of sources that has nothing to do with a municipality, the traditional role of municipalities in collecting and managing these kinds of waste have produced the particular etymology 'municipal.'
The Inter-Tribal Environmental Council (ITEC) was set up in 1992 to protect the health of Native Americans, their natural resources and environment. To accomplish this ITEC provides technical support, training and environmental services in a variety of disciplines. Currently, there are over forty ITEC member tribes in Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas. The ITEC is an example of the Native American Pan-Indian Organizations and Efforts.
TIDY Northern Ireland is a non-profit environmental organisation that runs the "Keep Northern Ireland Tidy Campaign", and manages a number of local environmental quality programmes such as Blue Flag, Seaside Awards, Green Coast Awards, Borough Cleanliness Survey, Northern Ireland Litter Survey, BIG Spring Clean, Coast Care, River Care and Lough Care, TIDY Business, Young Reporters on the Environment and Eco-Schools. Many of these programmes also operate beyond Northern Ireland.
Waste diversion or landfill diversion is the process of diverting waste from landfills. The success of landfill diversion can be measured by comparison of the size of the landfill from one year to the next. If the landfill grows minimally or remains the same, then policies covering landfill diversion are successful. For example, currently in the United States there are 3000 landfills. A measure of the success of landfill diversion would be if that number remains the same or is reduced. In 2009, it was recorded that the national average of landfill diversion in the United States was 33.8%, while San Francisco had implemented the most effective policies and had recorded a landfill diversion rate of 77%.
There is no national law in the United States that mandates recycling, and state and local governments often introduce their own recycling requirements. In 2014, the recycling/composting rate for municipal solid waste in the US was 34.6%. A number of U.S. states, including California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Oregon, and Vermont have passed laws that establish deposits or refund values on beverage containers while other jurisdictions rely on recycling goals or landfill bans of recyclable materials.
Waste management in Japan today emphasizes not just the efficient and sanitary collection of waste, but also reduction in waste produced and recycling of waste when possible. This has been influenced by its history, particularly periods of significant economic expansion, as well as its geography as a mountainous country with limited space for landfills. Important forms of waste disposal include incineration, recycling and, to a smaller extent, landfills and land reclamation. Although Japan has made process since the 1990s in reducing waste produced and encouraging recycling, there is still further progress to be made in reducing reliance on incinerators and the garbage sent to landfills. Challenges also exist in the processing of electronic waste and debris left after natural disasters.
Waste are unwanted or unusable materials. Waste is any substance which is discarded after primary use, or is worthless, defective and of no use. A by-product by contrast is a joint product of relatively minor economic value. A waste product may become a by-product, joint product or resource through an invention that raises a waste product's value above zero.
Litter in the United States is an environmental issue and littering is often a criminal offense, punishable with a fine as set out by statutes in many places. Litter laws, enforcement efforts, and court prosecutions are used to help curtail littering. All three are part of a "comprehensive response to environmental violators", write Epstein and Hammett, researchers for the United States Department of Justice. Littering and dumping laws, found in all fifty United States, appear to take precedence over municipal ordinances in controlling violations and act as public safety, not aesthetic measures. Similar from state-to-state, these laws define who violators are, the type or "function" of the person committing the action, and what items must be littered or dumped to constitute an illegal act. Municipal ordinances and state statutes require a "human action" in committing illegal littering or dumping, for one to be "held in violation." Most states require law enforcement officers or designated, authorized individuals, to "...witness the illegal act to write a citation." Together, prosecutions and punitive fines are important in fighting illegal littering and dumping.
Wade Dump was a rubber recycling facility and illegal industrial waste storage and disposal facility in Chester, Pennsylvania. It was located at 1 Flower Street on the western bank of the Delaware River just north of the Commodore Barry Bridge. A toxic fire at the site in 1978 burned out of control for several days and resulted in 43 injured firefighters and criminal charges for the owner of the site. The first responders to the fire suffered long term health consequences and higher than normal cancer rates.
Solid waste policy in the United States is aimed at developing and implementing proper mechanisms to effectively manage solid waste. For solid waste policy to be effective, inputs should come from stakeholders, including citizens, businesses, community based-organizations, non governmental organizations, government agencies, universities, and other research organizations. These inputs form the basis of policy frameworks that influence solid waste management decisions. In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates household, industrial, manufacturing, and commercial solid and hazardous wastes under the 1976 Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Effective solid waste management is a cooperative effort involving federal, state, regional, and local entities. Thus, the RCRA's Solid Waste program section D encourages the environmental departments of each state to develop comprehensive plans to manage nonhazardous industrial and municipal solid waste.
The Ringwood Mines landfill site is a 500-acre former iron mining site located in the borough of Ringwood, New Jersey. Used in the late 1960s and early 1970s by the large Ford Motor Plant in nearby Mahwah, New Jersey for disposal of waste, it was identified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its Superfund priority list in 1984 for cleanup of hazardous wastes. EPA deleted the site from the Superfund list in 1994 but subsequently relisted the site several times due to failed environmental remediation. Portions of the landfill site were repurposed as land used for affordable housing for the Ramapough people in the 1970s, even though the land was contaminated.
Plastic pollution is the accumulation of plastic objects and particles in the Earth's environment that adversely affects wildlife, wildlife habitat, and humans. Plastics that act as pollutants are categorized into micro-, meso-, or macro debris, based on size. Plastics are inexpensive and durable, and as a result levels of plastic production by humans are high. However, the chemical structure of most plastics renders them resistant to many natural processes of degradation and as a result they are slow to degrade. Together, these two factors have led to a high prominence of plastic pollution in the environment.
There are various issues of waste management in Thailand, including excessive plastic use, industrial waste, among others.
Waste management in Australia started to be implemented as a modern system by the second half of the 19th century, with its progresses driven by technological and sanitary advances. It is currently regulated at both federal and state level. The Commonwealth's Department of the Environment and Energy is responsible for the national legislative framework.