Litter is the improper
disposal of unwanted material. Litter
can have large and lasting effects on our communities, such as its impacts to wild-life,
people, and the environment, not to mention how it makes the community look and
the cost and resources it takes to pick it up.
Recent national studies show the most commonly littered item are cigarette
butts. Making up about half of littered
objects found, cigarette butts can take about ten years to decompose, making
them especially harmful to the environment. Other commonly littered items include fast food wrappers, paper, aluminum,
glass, and plastic containers, plastic grocery bags, among many other items we
see in our rivers and along our road sides.
Maryland – sometimes called “America in
Miniature” – bookends the Chesapeake Bay with mountains in the west and ocean
in the east. A unique state, Maryland
owns the tenth most miles of coastline, while being the fifth most densely
populated state, which means that litter can have heavy impacts on a variety of
people and places. Because Maryland
believes in being good stewards of its resources, our litter control laws range
from a $1,500 fine and possible 30 days in prison to a $30,000 fine with
possible 5 years in prison. Part of MDE’s mission is to continue to
educate Marylanders about the potential issues associated with litter and littering
and offer ways to help mitigate its impacts.
People litter both deliberately and by
accident and it can come from many different places, like vehicles, pedestrians,
or construction sites, among other sources. Below are key findings about
sources of litter, from a variety of studies.
Motorists and Pedestrians -- Motorists
(52.2%) and pedestrians (17.5%) cause nearly 70% of litter along
roads and highways. The improper securing of truck or cargo
loads, including collection vehicles, represent 20.7% of roadway litter.
Vehicle debris and improperly secured containers, dumpsters, trash cans or
residential waste/recycling bins represent another 8.1% of litter.
The Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT
SHA), removes over 2 million pounds of litter along our state-maintained roads each
year at a cost of more than $8 million in tax payer’s money . MDOT SHA litter removal forces are
supplemented by inmate crews, contractors, and other programs but, without
everyone pitching in to help, it’s still a challenge to keep Maryland clean.
Construction and demolition (C&D) -- C&D materials are generated during the building, renovating,
and demolition of structures. A Sustainable Materials
Management (SMM) approach identifies C&D materials to be used in new
building projects thus minimizing materials that would be disposed, and
possibly littered, and minimizing the use of new construction
Loading Docks -- 85% of litter at loading docks is from loading and unloading goods.(3) Shrink wrap, corrugated boxes, shipping documents, drink containers,
fast food packaging and tobacco products and packaging are typical
loading dock trash items.
Truck Loads -- Unsecured or improperly secured loads can release loose materials. Air
pressure increases as trucks drive faster and loose materials can be blown off
truck beds. Roads to landfills are often easy to follow because of all the
litter along the road.
Litter can have damaging
economic impacts on a community. Just
considering its heavy direct impacts, as private businesses, state and local
governments, non-profits, and volunteer groups, to name a few, dedicate money,
time, people, and other resources to pick-up litter. According to a 2009 Keep America Beautiful study, nationally over $11 billion is spent annually on litter cleanup.
Indirect costs of litter can also have heavy
impacts to a community. Litter can make
an area less appealing to tourism or business development. Litter in waterways can impact our waterways,
and recreation or related businesses like fishing, crabbing, and boating, and
associated jobs. Unsightly litter may also
cause disinterest in visiting a particular area or can hamper economic
development of an area. Additionally, according
to National Homebuilders’ Association, litter can even reduce property values
of a community.
Studies done over the years show that
littering is related to peoples’ attitudes.
For instance, if a place has excessive litter, people are more apt to
litter themselves. Also, a person might
litter because it’s more convenient to just drop something instead of finding a
proper trash receptacle. Also, age is an
important factor. Young people are more
likely to litter than an older person.
Another important factor are the ‘unwritten rules’ in your
community, Basically, if people in your
community think it’s important to not litter, people won’t be as likely to
litter – even if a proper receptacle isn’t handy.
Mr. Trash Wheel sets
Guinness World Record for “Most Floating Debris Removed by a Trash Interceptor in One Month.”
1800 Washington Boulevard, Baltimore, MD 21230