Litter Facts

  • One tree can filter up to 60 pounds of pollutants from the air each year.
  • Every day American businesses generate enough paper to circle the earth 20 times!
  • Paper products make up the largest part (approx 40%) of our trash.
  • Americans use more than 67 million tons of paper per year, or about 580 pounds per person.
  • Each ton of recycled paper can save 17 trees, 380 gallons of oil, three cubic yards of landfill space, 4,000 kilowatts of energy and 7,000 gallons of water!!
  • Recycling a stack of newspapers just 3 feet high can save one tree!
  • Disposable diapers last centuries in landfills. An average baby will go through 8,000 of them!
  • When you throw something ‘away’, it doesn’t go away! Trash is either burned, buried, recycled or dumped into rivers, oceans, or roadside.
  • It takes a 15-year old tree to produce 700 grocery bags.
  • Recycling plastic saves twice as much energy as burning it in an incinerator.
  • Out of ever $10 spent buying things, $1 (10%) goes for packaging that is thrown away. Packaging represents about 65% of household trash.
  • McDonald’s saves 68,000,000 pounds of packaging per year just by pumping soft drink syrup directly from the delivery truck into tanks in the restaurant, instead of shipping the syrup in cardboard boxes.
  • A typical family consumes 182 gallons of pop, 29 gallons of juice, 104 gallons of milk, and 26 gallons of bottled water a year. That’s a lot of containers — make sure they’re recycled!
  • Every month, we throw out enough glass bottles and jars to fill up a giant skyscraper. All of these jars are recyclable!
  • Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to run a TV for three hours — or the equivalent of a half a gallon of gasoline.
  • Once an aluminum can is recycled, it can be part of a new can within six weeks There is no limit to the amount of times an aluminum can can be recycled.

Keep Tallahassee Beautiful’s SEVEN PRIMARY SOURCES OF LITTER

  • Pedestrians or cyclists who do not use receptacles
  • Motorists who do not use car ashtrays or litter bags
  • Business dumpsters that are improperly covered
  • Loading docks and commercial or recreational marinas with inadequate waste receptacles
  • Construction and demolition sites without tarps and receptacles to contain debris and waste
  • Trucks with uncovered loads on local roads and highways
  • Household trash scattered before or during collection

Please do your part to eliminate these problems!

Our Litter Problem

Is litter really a big problem?

Unfortunately, yes.  Keep America Beautiful has over 600 certified affiliates, (Keep Tallahassee Beautiful being one of them) across the country who know first-hand just how bad litter can be, and how pervasive.  They also know that litter typically impacts all areas of a town.  Here are some facts:

  • Litter invites more litter. Once litter has accumulated along a road or in a community, people are more likely to keep littering.
  • Over 51 billion pieces of litter land on U. S. roadways each year. Most of it, 46.6 billion pieces, is less than four inches, according to  KAB’s National Visible Litter Survey and Litter Cost Study.  That’s 6,729 items per mile.
  • Litter cleanup costs the U.S. almost $11.5 billion each year, with businesses paying $9.1 billion. Governments, schools and other organizations pick up the remainder.
  • Community economy and quality of life suffer. The presence of litter in a community takes a toll on quality of life, property values, and housing prices.  The KAB 2009 National Visible Litter Survey and Litter Cost Study found that litter in a community decreases property values 7 percent.
  • Litter has environmental consequences. Wind and weather, traffic, and animals move litter into gutters, lawns and landscaped areas, alleyways, and parking structures.  Debris may be carried by storm drains into local waterways, with potential for serious environmental contamination.
  • The types of litter found most often include bottles, cans and fast food packaging, plastic shopping bags and cigarette butts.
  • Eighty percent of our waterways are littered with trash that was dropped on land.
  • Litter is not only morally wrong; it’s illegal in all 50 states. While every state may vary, punishment can include a fine as well as jail time for littering and illegal dumping.
  • For more facts about litter, check out the KAB website.

 Who litters?

               Unfortunately many people litter.   And they may be members of your family, your friends…even you.  Research shows that individuals under 30 are more likely to litter than those who are older.  In fact, age and not gender, is a significant predictor of littering behavior.

Why do people litter?

               That’s a complicated question with no easy answer.  Our research shows that people often litter because they have no sense of ownership, even though parks and waterfronts are really owned by us all.

Another common reason for littering is the belief that ‘someone else will pick it up for me’.  Some REAL jerks even use the excuse that they are creating jobs for people who clean up.  Well, that could not be further from the truth.  Those ‘cleaner-uppers’ are often paid for by your tax dollars or the extra money you pay for products and services at local businesses.

Most of the time litter invites more litter.  Once litter has accumulated along a road or in a community, people are more likely to keep littering in that location.  Sometimes it is simply a matter of laziness.  If there is no garbage or recycling container nearby, some people will just throw their garbage in a spot that is convenient to them (which can be anywhere from a parking lot to a public park).  In other cases, people don’t want to cross a street or walk a few feet to where a garbage receptacle is located.

Also, sometimes people litter and don’t realize it.  Unintentional llitter, such as litter that flies out of the window of your car, from an uncovered container, or the back of a pick-up truck, is still litter.

If some of the littering is unintentional, what is the big deal?

               Because unintentionally littering is still littering and it actually contributes to a large portion of the litter found across the country.  So take a few extra moments to secure your garbage to keep it from becoming litter.

I throw my banana peel out of my car window sometimes.  It’s biodegradable or organic so that’s not littering, right?

WRONG!  Think about it – would you want someone throwing stuff in your yard, biodegradable or not?

Littering is putting an item where it does not belong, like the ground.  So, unless you are driving through a banana farm, that peel is litter.  Organic or not, it is still an eyesore and leads to more litter.  And it can also attract bugs and other hungry animals, generate odors and it doesn’t actually decompose quickly.

What can I do to stop litter?

Here are a few ideas:

  • First, don’t litter. Set a good example for your friends, kids and neighbors.  Even an apple core is considered litter.
  • Never throw trash out of your car window. Also, be aware when driving with your windows open.  Loose items like paper or candy wrappers can fly out easily.
  • Place a bag in your car to collect personal trash (or recyclables) instead of tossing them.
  • At home, secure the lids on your trash and recycling containers, especially when you set them out on collection day.
  • When recycling at the curb, secure or bundle loose papers and other light objects tightly so they won’t get carried away with the wind.
  • Secure loads and remove trash from the back of your pickup truck. Even larger items can fly out when you are traveling at high speeds.  This is also very dangerous.
  • If you smoke, never throw your cigarette butts on the ground. Cigarette butts, while small, actually constitute a large part of existing litter.
  • If you see litter, pick it up. Even it it’s one chip bag or straw wrapper – that’s one less piece of litter on the street.
  • Get involved in a community clean up. Keep Tallahassee Beautiful, the local KAB affiliate, organizes regular clean-up programs.  It is an easy way to see the problem first-hand and to do something about it.  Give us a call and we can help you join a mission that matters!

How are Plastic Bottles Recycled?

Plastic bottles make life so much easier. They’re lightweight and easy to hold, and they’re also strong and hard to break. A plastic bottle is the best way to contain and carry many kinds of liquid, from water and soft drinks to oil to household cleaners and baby formula. The plastic bottle is a great invention, but what happens to it when that handy container is empty?

How Bottles Can Hurt the Environment

Since the 1970s, people who care about the environment and the health of our planet have been worried about how to dispose of plastic once it’s been used. Today, about 60 million water bottles are thrown away every day in America, and it can take up to 700 years for just one plastic bottle to break down in a process called biodegrading, which is also the process that happens when a piece of fruit rots. These bottles fill up our landfills, and we need landfill space to bury trash that can’t be recycled. Throwing away plastic also hurts the environment in other ways. As plastic decays, it can give off chemicals that get into our water and air and can make people, plants, and animals sick.

To solve these problems, people have worked together to develop a process to recycle plastic bottles and convert them into other useful items, including clothes, furniture, fences, and new plastic bottles, bags, and containers.

The Process of Recycling Plastic

Recycling takes many steps. First, the bottles have to be collected from homes, businesses, and other sites. Then, every plastic bottle must be separated from metal, glass, and other things that people put into recycle bins. The plastic bottles are also sorted by the type of plastic they’re made from. Then, the bottles are cleaned remove any food, liquid, or chemical residue.

Next, all of the bottles are ground up and shredded into flakes. Finally, they are melted down and formed into small pellets, each about the size of a grain of rice. The pellets are bundled up and sold to companies that can be melt them and make them into many different products. Just think of all of the plastic toys, tools, electronic gadgets, and other plastic things in your own home. Many of these are made with recycled plastic.

Why Should We Recycle?

There are many reasons to recycle plastic bottles. For starters, recycling reduces the pollution that can come from the chemicals used to make these bottles. Recycling also helps cut down on the amount of trash thrown into landfills, so our garbage doesn’t take up as much space. Recycling also creates jobs for people who collect recyclable things and work at places that turn them into new materials.

Recycling is good for the economy and the environment, and it’s easy to do. All you have to do is remember to throw things into the right bins when you’re done with them. But you can also do more, especially if places that you usually spend time don’t have recycle bins. Students can talk to their school board, principal, and teachers about setting up recycling programs at school. You can also organize can and bottle drives to pick up litter and sort out recyclables in parks and along streets. And you can make signs to spread the word that recycling is easy and important to do.