In 2021, the Keep America Beautiful organization released the largest study on litter in America.
This research titled, 'The Keep America Beautiful 2020 National Litter Study' provided a detailed understanding
of the quantity, composition, and sources of litter across the United States.
Key findings of this study found:
Nearly 52 billion pieces of litter along U.S. roadways and waterways
Slightly more litter along waterways (26.3 Billion pieces ) than roadways (25.2 Billion pieces)
More than 2,000 pieces of litter per mile (both roadway and waterway)
90% of people surveyed believe litter is a problem in their state
6 billion pieces found that are more than four inches in size
Most littered item remains: Cigarette Butts (but this litter is down almost 70% in the past few years)
Facts about Litter in the United States:
1. U.S. roadways accumulate over 51 billion pieces of litter per year¹
2. There are an estimated 6,729 pieces of litter per roadway mile.¹
3. On average, there are 152 pieces of litter for every U.S. resident.¹
4. The most commonly littered items are cigarette butts, food wrappers, plastic bottles, disposable cups, grocery bags, straws,
and aluminum beverage cans.¹
5. Litter cleanups cost the U.S. an estimated $11.5 billion annually¹
6. Paying the costs, businesses pay $9.1 billion, NGOs pay $769 million, educational institutions pay $240 million, and the rest is paid using your state and local tax dollars.³
7. The presence of litter in your neighborhood or community lowers property values by 7%.¹
8. Packaging litter makes up 46% of litter measuring 4 inches or greater.¹
9. 2.6 billion pieces of food packaging litter (snack bags, candy wrappers, etc.) were identified in a 2020 survey of U.S. roadways and waterways.²
10. 394.7 million fast-food cups and 423 million other fast-food packaging items were identified in the same survey.²
11. Plastic waste comprises 38.6% of all litter.²
12. An average American litters or improperly disposes of 100 plastic bottles per year.⁷
13. 207 million items of PPE masks and gloves were found across America’s roads and waterways in 2020.²
14. An estimated 350 million plastic bags were discovered on U.S. roadways and waterways in 2020, 94.6% of which were HDPE grocery bags.²
15. In a single-day global cleanup initiative in 2018, 1.9 million grocery bags were collected.⁵
16. Between 10–12 million metric tons of plastic waste enters the ocean each year.⁶
17. Without immediate action, researchers estimate 29 million metric tons will enter the oceans annually by 2040.⁶
18. One million marine animals are killed by plastic marine litter every year.³
19. Both direct and indirect costs from plastic marine litter costs the world $2.5 trillion per year.⁴
20. A littered plastic water bottle takes 450 years to decompose; an aluminum can takes 200; a glass bottle takes 1 million.⁸
Sources for “The Facts About Litter in the U.S.”:
1. Keep America Beautiful. “Litter in America.”
2. Keep America Beautiful. “2020 National Litter Study.”
3. Yahoo. “It Costs Over $11 Billion Per Year To Clean Up Litter.”
4. The Guardian. “Marine plastic pollution costs the world up to $2.5tn a year, researchers find.”
5. Ocean Conservancy. 2019 International Coastal Cleanup Report.
6. National Geographic. “Plastic trash flowing into the seas will nearly triple by 2040 without drastic action.”
7. Washington Post. “Congrats! You dump 100 plastic bottles in nature each year.”
8. Peace Corps. “Timeline for Decomposition.”
To facilitate roadside cleanup campaigns for organizations and individuals through our membership of community volunteers.
Clean Up Aiken! provides campaigns with a process for scheduling and implementing cleanups that are simplified and turnkey for effective roadside litter removal.
Our mission also includes public awareness projects designed to educate the community on the impact of litter on Aiken County.
With your support, we can continue to make a positive difference
in Aiken County, South Carolina.
Join us in this important mission to Clean Up Aiken!
Clean Up Aiken! Inc.