Who Litters and Why People Litter?

Along roadways, motorists (52%) and pedestrians (23%) are the biggest contributors to litter.  Research also 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?  Here iss what the Keep America Beautiful (KAB) 2009 National Visible Litter Survey and Litter Cost Study found: 

  • Personal choice.  Individual behavior—or choosing to litter—means litter on the ground.  Nearly one in five, or 17% of all disposals observed in public spaces were littering, while 83% disposed of litter properly.  And 81% of littering was intentional, e.g., flicking, flinging, or dropping.  On the other hand, individuals who hold the belief that littering is wrong, and consequently feel a personal obligation not to litter, are less likely to do so.   


  • Litter begets litter.  Individuals are much more likely to litter into a littered environment.  And once there, it attracts more litter.  By contrast, a clean community discourages littering and improves overall community quality of life.  Availability and proximity to trash and recycling receptacles also impact whether someone chooses to litter.   


  • It’s “not my responsibility”.  Some people feel no sense of ownership for parks, walkways, beaches, and other public spaces. They believe someone else will pick up after them; that it’s not their responsibility.