The Costs of American 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 Keep America Beautiful's (KAB) 2009 National Visible Litter Survey and Litter Cost Study.  That’s 6,729 items per mile. 

While visible roadside litter has decreased by about 61% since 1969, litter is still a persistent problem. Consider these facts:

  • 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.  KAB’s 2009 National Visible Litter Survey and Litter Cost Study found that litter in a community decreases property values 7%.
  • 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.