Are Litterbugs Extinct?

Sep 05

Some of our readers may remember a time, during the late 80s and 90s, when some of the biggest environmental concerns on the minds of common people were reducing litter, recycling and maybe smog to a lesser extent. But, in this strange and brave new world in which we live, those concerns have been officially dwarfed by larger and more abstract issues like global climate change, alternative fuel sources and renewable energies. One may wonder where society currently stands, in terms of progress, on some of those older concerns.

Well, smog can be rolled into the ongoing struggles with alternative fuel and energy, and recycling has become more or less the norm in many modern suburbs. But, you rarely get an update about how clean our cities are as a whole. Is America still plagued by the floating trash discarded from cars, trucks and other passersby to the same degree or have we become more conscious of how to dispose of our refuse…hence the question, “Are litterbugs extinct?”

Now, one might think that litter has substantially dropped thanks to a combination of various social awareness campaigns and a significant decrease in cigarette smoking (butts account for 38 percent of all roadway litter). And for the sake of our ecosystem, local tourism and civic beauty, this incidence of this careless habit has gone down – almost 61 percent is the last four decades (this is public knowledge thanks to a large 2009 study conducted by Keep American Beautiful).

However, the statistics still don’t feel like good news. According to, more than 51 billion pieces of litter still hit the pavement each year. Furthermore, “Litter cleanup costs the U.S. almost $11.5 billion each year, with businesses paying $9.1 billion.”

And, most pressing (and disturbing) of all: Young people litter far more than citizens over the age of 30. It turns out the litterbug is alive and well. Maybe it’s time to roll out some of those old awareness campaigns again for today’s emerging youth. Apparently, finding a proper receptacle isn’t common sense despite the fact littering is still illegal in all 50 states.


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