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Why Do People Litter?

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Dear fellow humans. Please pick up your trash. Stop throwing trash on the ground. I take my dog for 1-2 mile long walks every other day and I started to pick up trash along the way. I get as much as 2 grocery bags full of garbage on each walk. Yes, you heard me right. A grocery bag full of trash…in a suburban residential neighborhood. So why do people litter? Why is littering bad? Read on to find out.

I was inspired by my daughter who wants to be like Michael Jackson and “heal the world, make it a better place, for you and for me and the entire human race.” The world is smaller than the think and our actions as humans have consequences. Yes we are the smartest most advanced civilization. Yet we are also the most destructive. As spiderman’s uncle would say, with great power comes great responsibility. And if we don’t want to live in a trash planet, we need to stop making and leaving so much trash all over the place.

Why do people litter?

There are several reasons why people litter and all of them have no excuse really. It comes down to a matter of being unprepared, not wanting to be inconvenienced by your own trash, laziness, stupidity, and modern packaging culture.

Being unprepared

Imagine being out hiking or on the beach and having a water bottle or 2 in your backpack. So you spend some time out there and drink the two bottles of water. Then while you are out in the wilderness, there is no trashcan in sight. You don’t want to carry around 2 empty water bottles so you chuck them in a bush. In this case you were not prepared by bringing your own trash bag and you were not prepared by bringing a reusable water bottle.

Not wanting to be inconvenienced by your own trash

The second reason people litter is because they don’t want to bother with carrying their trash until they find a trash can. People think that trash does not belong to them and should go on the ground. They fail to recognize that they created the trash and therefor they are responsible for the trash. They feel as though there are no consequences to their actions and simply let go of it so they no longer have to carry it and be bothered by it. Drivers throw trash out of their windows because they don’t want to be bothered by the trash they created in their car.

Laziness or Too busy

The third reason people litter is because of laziness. They do not want to walk to a trash can. They don’t want to try to find a trash can. They want to be comfortable and keep doing what they are doing. In some cases people believe they are too busy to throw away their trash. They believe that what they are doing is too important to bother with throwing away trash.


Some people litter because they are stupid. They think it is funny to litter and funny to hurt nature and the environment. They want to break the law and do something to rebel while failing to realize that their rebelliousness is just a case of stupidity.

Modern Packaging Culture

Another reason why people litter is because of modern packaging culture. Everything these days is in multiple layers of packaging and we as humans struggle to dispose of all of the packaging that is being thrown at us each and every day. For example I am eating a box of crackers that is in a cardboard box and inside the box is a plastic bag and inside the plastic bag is a plastic sleeve to hold the crackers. That is 3 different types of material waste that is being used to hold crackers.

Example 2: I am also eating some chocolates. The chocolates are in a bag. Inside the bag, each chocolate is wrapped individually with more plastic. Is that really necessary?

Example 3: My children’s toys come in boxes with layers and layers of packaging material. A doll will be in a box that is inside of another box. The doll will be tied down with several types of plastic and metal wires. The hair will be wrapped in plastic. Also when I purchase the toy, I carry it home in yet another form of packaging – the plastic grocery bag.

Now tell me is all of this packaging necessary?? I THINK NOT. Companies need to change the way they package things. And we need to stop using plastic grocery bags.

Why Littering is Bad?

Some people might litter because, well they don’t understand or know why littering is bad. Litter has a high chance of ending up in the ocean. Litter on curbs is pushed down sewer drains during heavy rains. Then the litter eventually ends up in the nearest water streams and rivers which all lead to the ocean.

Plastic in Seafood

Animals in the ocean can mistake the litter for food and choke on it. Fish also consume small microplastic particles. These plastic particles are being found in the seafood we eat and are being consumed by humans. Plastics are capable of leaching toxic substances.

Plastic doesn’t Biodegrade and Litter Leaches Toxic Substances

Plastic trash also doesn’t biodegrade. It will stay in the environment for thousands of years and like I mentioned before, plastics are capable of leaching toxic substances. In 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than there is fish.

Garbage is dirty and spreads germs and bacteria

Littering also is dirty and contains germs and harmful bacteria. Animals are attracted to litter for food and contract diseases and viruses and spread them to other animals.

Trash Kills Animals

Animals can also be entangled or smothered in litter and die. They can also be killed by mistaking trash for food and eating it. Bacteria and disease in trash can spread to animals. Toxic chemicals digested by animals can cause cancer and death.

Littering Statistics & Littering Facts

  • $11.5 Billion is spent on cleaning up litter annually
  • 50% of all items that are littered are cigarette butts, which take up to 10 years to decompose and are made of cellulose acetate
  • 75% of people admitted they littered in the past 5 years
  • Fast food litter is the most common object to be littered
  • Men are more likely to litter than women
  • Most people who litter are between 18 and 34 years old.
  • Sources of litter: pedestrians, motorists, uncovered trucks, boaters, industrial manufacturers.

Litter Lasts this Long

  • Cigarette Butts 1-10 years
  • Aluminum Cans 80-100 years
  • Orange Peels 2 years
  • Plastic Bags 10-20 years
  • Glass bottles 1,000,000 years
  • Tin Cans 50 years
  • Wool Socks 1-5 years
  • Plastic bottles – FOREVER

Is Littering Illegal?

Yes, it is illegal in most places and there are hefty fines for littering violations. Fines can be anywhere from $500 to $20,000 and more. Not only are you hurting the environment, you are breaking the law. If you are caught, you will be out of a lot of money.

How to Prevent Litter: Do Not Litter Signs

Are you tired of people littering around you? Do you want to help prevent trash from ending up in the ocean and killing wildlife? Put up a Do Not Litter sign! I love these signs. They really work! Other than signs, providing adequate trash cans is another way to prevent littering.


Yes, we are all guilty of littering in our lives. But hopefully we can learn to stop and think about the consequences. We only have one planet and it is our responsibility to take care of it. It may not seem like one piece of trash matters, but there are 7 billion people on the planet and if each person litters, that is 7 billion pieces of trash that will end up in the ocean. So think twice before littering! Take care friends!

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Utility Hacker

The utility hacker is passionate about saving people money on their utility bills and protecting the environment. I was a utility bill auditor in Texas for 10 years. I am sharing my knowledge to help people survive the crazy utility industry that we live in today.