top of page

Where Litter Comes From

Some items are certainly present more than others in litter, but all sources of litter may surprise you

  1. Pedestrian Dropped Litter:  This is mostly food and drink containers along with cigarette butts.  People drop things when they're done with them for a combination of reasons.  They simply don't care about litter, there are far too few public trash cans, and littering has the lowest penalty of any offense in the state.  For pedestrian dropped litter to be dropped any lower, there needs to be public trash cans on literally every block and the litter statute needs to be enforced.  Until it is easier to throw something in the trash than on the ground, a very large portion of society will continue to throw it on the ground.  That leaves us to pick it up while we plead for a change.

  2. Vehicle Tossed Litter:  This is most often miniature alcohol bottles (shooters) the driver doesn't want to be caught with, cigarette butts, and fast food containers.  This type of litter is thrown from cars as a pure convenience to the drivers who simply don't want to carry it all the way home.  This litter is some of the most dangerous because it is virtually never in a tied bag and it rarely clears the curb.  Meaning there is little time for it to be removed from the road before being washed into a storm drain and eventually becoming inseparable from our drinking water.  Provided there is a public infrastructure for litter removal at all, bagged trash, and trash that's not literally in the road is infinitely easier to clean than individual pieces in the roadway.

  3. Homes Without Regular Garbage Pickup:  Some homeowners resort to illegal dumping as a way to avoid paying for a traditional trash hauler.  This mostly appears as fully bagged trash along major roads earlier in the mornings.  People see this as less risky than illegal public dumping in a dumpster because commercial dumpsters are covered in warnings and fines for littering on the street are a fraction of the cost.

  4. Businesses Avoiding Commercial Garbage Pickup:  Certain types of businesses will seek to avoid regular trips to the dump or paying for a commercial dumpster on their premises.  In some cases these businesses use their own personal trash service.  In others, the businesses illegally use other businesses' dumpsters.  In the worst cases, businesses will hurl bagged trash straight onto the side of the road in an area where they know there aren't any cameras.  If you start paying attention you'll see fully bagged trash along the roads regularly, especially early in the morning.  Some jurisdictions have gone as far as forcing each business to prove they are utilizing some sort of trash hauling company as part of the process to obtain a business license because of how much this type of illegal dumping occurs.

  5. Businesses With Inadequate Dumpsters:  Litter often collects around commercial dumpsters that are either not emptied regularly enough or not closed after each filling.  This litter than moves with the wind and rain into other parts of the community.

  6. Poorly Contained Hauling Rigs:  Landscaping businesses, Junk haulers, and even your own curbside trash hauler uses a truck that's going to let some amount of trash back out before it gets to the dump.  Landscapers and junk haulers use open sided trailers and tarps because they are cheap.  Some of these designs can't reasonably be expected to hold 50% of what they're carrying for even 15 miles.  If you're employing someone to clear your property and they're not using a totally sealed trailer, you're littering the road.  Trash trucks with hydraulic arms, that fling the can over the top of the truck, have a tendency to dump loose garbage on your street.  Older trash trucks that are loaded in the back by hand are still susceptible to loose trash getting loose and the workers not having time to track down each piece.  For this reason and many others, always bag all trash.  There shouldn't be anything loose in your trash can.  It is going to end up on the street and then very likely in a body of water.  After a time in the water, litter degrades to a certain extent, we all drink it, not good.

bottom of page