Littering is an epidemic worldwide. In the U.S., littering costs $45 billion every year. That’s an awful lot of money that could be spent on things like education, clean water, and parks instead.
And it’s one of the worst forms of behavior for the environment. It causes air pollution, water pollution, and garbage pollution. Essentially, littering is one of the worst things you can do. It’s incredibly inconsiderate, takes up unnecessary space, and is against the law. How can you stop littering? Let’s take a look at some ways to prevent it from becoming a habit in your life.
Table of Contents
The Easiest Way to Start
The easiest way to start is to be aware of your surroundings. When you see trash on the ground, pick it up and put it in the nearest trash can. If you see somebody littering, politely tell them not to do it. If they ignore you, let them know that they’re breaking the law and could be fined $1000 or more.
It also pays to participate in volunteer work where litter removal is necessary. This will give you a chance to see just how much garbage there really is out there and make you more conscious of picking up any litter you come across in your everyday life.
In order for these methods to work, we must all be involved in keeping our surroundings clean; we need pedestrians and drivers alike participating in good habits like recycling and picking up trash when they see it. It takes all of us working together for our environment to stay clean!
Reusable Shopping Bags
Carrying reusable shopping bags with you is a great way to prevent littering. You may not have noticed this, but people who go shopping with their own bags are less likely to litter. It's because they can easily carry their items home without the need for plastic or paper bags that will inevitably end up in a landfill.
Many single use packaging products state "Recyclable" on them, but that does not mean they actually get recycled.
I will be honest, it took me about 2 years to finally make this an unconscious habit, and I now have enough reusable totes to last me several lifetimes, but it's been a very long time since I have used a single use bag!
Make Sure You Dispose of Waste in the Correct Place
There are a number of steps you can take to make sure you don’t litter. The first would be making sure that you dispose of your waste in the proper place. This includes things like trash and food wrappers. It might seem trivial, but a lot of people think that being able to throw their trash anywhere is convenient.
But it’s far from convenient for the environment. Trash left on the ground is easily blown away by wind or pushed around by animals, which just causes more environmental damage. So, what should you do? You should always make sure that your garbage ends up in bins and other designated areas where it will be picked up and properly disposed of an incinerated.
Don’t Litter When You’re Driving
One of the most common ways people litter is by throwing things out their car window. This littering behavior not only causes a nuisance on the side of the road, it also creates dangerous driving conditions for other drivers. In fact, littering from a car can cause up to $5 billion worth of damage every year.
The best way to stop this from happening is to never throw anything out your car window while you’re driving. Remember that old saying, “Think before you toss?” It applies here too!
If you have trash in your car, never throw it out onto the ground or anywhere else that could harm another person. Instead, wait until you reach your destination and dispose of it there. I find a good rule of thumb is: if you can carry a full package out, you can surely bring your empty package back.
Walk and Talk to Your Neighbors
One great way to stop littering is by walking and talking with your neighbors. What can you do if you see a smoker who just threw their cigarette butt on the ground? You could politely suggest that they consider dropping their cigarette butts in the nearest bin.
You can also start a conversation about reducing consumption of single use materials and why it's important. Or, you could encourage your neighbors to start to recycle by providing helpful information, like how easy it is to recycle or which items can be recycled in your area.
And don’t forget about talking about how littering affects wildlife and the environment!
Get Educated About the Problem
The first step to overcoming any problem is getting educated about it. You need to know what’s causing it and why it needs to be stopped. Littering is caused by ignorance, apathy, or even convenience.
It’s important to understand the cause of your behavior so you can work on changing that behavior. For example, if you litter because you don’t care about the environment, then you need to change your mindset about the environment.
Have a Talk With Your Kids
Teaching children from an early age about the consequences of littering is one of the best ways that parents can help. For example, if a child throws a piece of trash on the ground, have them pick it up and put it in a nearby trash can before they go on their way.
When you teach your children from an early time that littering is wrong, they’ll have less of a chance to develop into chronic litterers when they get older.
Organize a Street Fair or Community Cleanup
One way to stop littering is by organizing a street fair or community cleanup. Invite your neighbors, friends, and friends’ friends for a day of cleaning up the streets and picking up litter. Make it fun!
There are so many creative things you can do like going for a walk with friends, having a picnic on the street, or inviting everyone over for dinner.
Another way to stop littering is by educating people. It’s important to talk about why it’s so bad for the environment—and on another level why it’s illegal to throw garbage on the floor in public places—to change people’s mindsets.
Share posts from reliable sources on social media and create informative conversations with your family and friends. You could also pass out flyers at schools or put up posters around town that show the consequences of littering (such as dirty air).
When you litter, you’re not just harming yourself; you’re harming the entire community. Litter can end up in rivers and streams, on beaches and in the ocean, in our communities and even on our doorsteps.
The good news is that it’s never too late to start taking some simple steps to help stop litter. The best place to start is with yourself. Begin by making a commitment to stop littering, then take some of the other actions outlined here. And don’t forget to spread the word!
One of the most powerful tools in the the Litter Hero's arsenal can be a litter map and litter mapping app. You can share your good work, help build a global knowledge base and encourage other to join you! Here are a few of the best litter mapping apps out there.
To make the most of your litter picking efforts whether alone or with a group, why not share your activity with others? Get kudos, share useful location data and inspire other people to help join litter clean up events and activities. These mobile apps can help make it more fun and more rewarding to be a LitterHero!
Everyone has a responsibility to take care of the planet. You don't need to be a scientist or an environmentalist to do your part for the environment, and you don't need to become a hermit either.
Here are a few easy ways to leave places better than you found them by simply changing your behavior and doing small things that matter.
Its sounds idealistic, but the world would be a much better place if we all left places a little bit better than we found them. When you leave a place better than you found it, you are doing a great service to your fellow citizens and you are helping to make the world a better place for yourself.
The first step to being a better caretaker of our environment is to plan ahead. Bring reusable bags with you when shopping, or pack some snacks and water in your car so you have it on hand. You’ll find yourself less tempted to buy things at the store or get fast food if you bring your own sustenance. You’ll save money, too!
Reduce your waste
A great way to do your part for the planet is by reducing what you throw away. Things like reusing plastic water bottles, recycling materials, and composting food scraps can help reduce your waste.
If you're a coffee drinker, be sure to use reusable cups every time you go out for coffee. Use cloth bags when shopping instead of disposable bags. This will not only help the environment but it will also save some money in the process!
Make the right choices
The first step to leaving the world a better place is by making the right choices. There are many small ways you can start living in a more sustainable way, from recycling to turning off lights when you leave a room.
It's also important to reduce your waste and use less energy. Consider using reusable shopping bags instead of plastic ones, only running the dishwasher when fully loaded, or turning off electronics and lights when they're not being used.
Take time to appreciate nature
Find a place that is green, like a park or the seashore and spend some time there. Enjoy the vibrant colors, fresh air, and calming sounds. Nature is embedded in our DNA and we need to be in constant contact with it. This is why many people choose to grow plants at home, but if you're not a green thumb, you might want to check out greenhouses or plant stores. Learn to appreciate the beauty of nature by learning to grow something on your own!
If you spot some trash left behind by others, or brought in by the tide, you could pick it up and leave it in the nearest litter bin. Then leave with a sense of peace knowing that you took a positive action and that you are doing your part to make your world better.
Give back to the community
For anyone who wants to get involved in charity, there are a wide range of ways to do so. You can donate money easily through a number of crowdfunding sites. Many people don't realize this, but you can even get involved in charity work through your own personal skills and talents.
If you have any kind of artistic skill, consider donating your talents to hospitals and organizations. You could even take on a small job, such as repairing a fence, to help out the community. Volunteering is a great way to give back, especially if you're looking for a creative way to spend your time!
Encouraging other people can be as simple as being friendly, giving a compliment, or helping someone with a problem. Encouraging other people can also be as big as giving them a smile, a hug, or a handshake, or helping organise a local clean up event. Encouraging other people is an important part of life and it is something that can make you feel good about yourself.
Leaving places better than you found them is a nice way to make the world a better place. To encourage this behavior, make it a point to think about how you are treating the environment, people, and your surroundings before, during, and after your stay in a place. Make an effort to leave things better than when you found them.
The global litter problem is massive and can seem overwhelming - but tackling it is not nearly as difficult as it seems. Want to know How to Be a LitterHero? We have broken down the litter problem into simple items that anyone can act on, locally.
The single easiest way to tackle the litter problem is to produce less waste in the first place. The number one source of litter is waste packaging. There are a number of ways to reduce the waste you generate but the simplest one of all is to consume less.
The next best thing is to choose products that have minimal packaging of a recyclable or biodegradable nature. Which ever method of litter prevention suits you best, it will work even better of you can bring friends and family on board!
Spread the word and share your reasons for preventing litter, you will be making a change and spreading change by changing mindsets and paradigms. Below are two ways to move forward.
While the easiest, simplest and most powerful, way to reduce waste and litter is to prevent it in the first place, there is so much litter already in our environment that we need to take direct action to clean it up!
You don't need to organise or take part in massive actions - although they are great for raising awareness. Even the smallest actions add up to a massive positive change, not just from the litter you remove, but because other people get inspired by your actions.
From time to time, as I walk about town I spot a discarded box or wrapper and just pick it up and drop it in the nearest bin, but it's safer, more hygienic and highly recommended to use the right tools to make the job, quick fun and much easier.
Here are our suggested Litter Hero clean up tools, with affiliate links, so if you click to buy any of the suggested tools, LitterHero may earn a small commission!
Aren't plastic bags part of the litter problem?? Yes they are, but my pragmatic choice has been to remove litter that is in the environment and place it into the municipal waste stream instead.
A global movement that is gaining traction is the idea of reducing your personal waste and consumption to near zero, which is a near perfect way to be a Litter Hero. Here are a few Zero Waste Resources to get started!
What is Zero Waste?
Wikipedia says that Zero Waste is a philosophy that encourages the redesign of resource life cycles so that all products are reused. The goal is for no trash to be sent to landfills or incinerators. The process recommended is one similar to the way that resources are reused in nature.
The definition adopted by the Zero Waste International Alliance goes a bit further and states that Zero Waste is a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary, to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use.
Zero Waste means designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them. Implementing Zero Waste is not easy in western societies but it is possible. Here are some great places to look for inspiration and ideas.
Zero Waste Resources
Whether you are just getting started on a zero waste lifestyle or a seasoned low or zero waster, below are some interesting links you can explore for inspiration, how to guides and more.
A site and blog by Zero Waste advocate Kathryn with many great tips and additional resources for anyone curious about embarking on a zero waste lifestyle.
Simple and easy to read blog about everyday sustainability, simple living, and zero waste. A good source for understanding the philosophy of zero waste.
An excellent source of straightforward ideas for each room of your house, to start living waste free.
An unlikely source of information on the classic 3 R's - Reduce, Reuse & Recycle, but this page contains a host of interesting and useful links to additional waste resources!
If your are looking for more zero waste resources reading, below are some suggestions from Sustainable Jungle - where you can find sustainability related ideas, tips, tricks, hacks, products, brands and stories of people & organisations doing meaningful work to future-proof our planet.
Original zero waste blogs:
Up and coming zero waste blogs:
Share your Zero Waste Resources
Environmental problems can be overwhelming. It’s tough to figure out what you can do to make a difference.
There are a lot of good resources on the internet but they don’t seem to be as organized, accessible or as up-to-date as they should be. There are many people who have great knowledge on these issues but they are not being heard.
Share your Zero Waste Resources with other so they can refer to them and use them on a daily basis. The knowledge you share can lead to more environmentally responsible lives!
I have put a lot of my own time and resources into building a social platform to make it easy for anyone to get started as a local LitterHero because I believe we can all make a massive positive impact. But now I need your help !
Written by Martin Thompson
Founder & Full time LitterHero
LitterHero is all about helping engage local heroes who want to clean up the streets and neighbourhoods, but don't know where to start. I realised that there are millions of people who want to stop litter and plastic pollution at its source - on their street, in their neighbourhoods and in their city - before it reaches the sea, and gets sent right back to us.
Putting the LitterHero platform together has taken a lot of time and resources in terms of webdesign, social media and real world event organisation and networking. While I have had a lot of help from a lot of great people, LitterHero is still in it's early stages and a lot of the people who helped me get this project started have moved on to new projects.
So I'm reaching out to you to ask for your help to take LitterHero to the next stage! As a micro organisation we rely on passionate volunteers to manage or complete small tasks and little projects that help us grow our outreach and build a network of local Litter prevention and clean up action groups, all over the world.
Currently we need volunteers for the following task and mini projects:
If you are passionate about helping clean up the planet, have a few minutes a week to spare and can work from home or directly from a mobile device, I would love to hear from you!
Countless non profit organizations are working to stop plastic pollution, spending great time and effort to recreate things that have already been done by other similar groups. Find out why.
The other day, one of our LitterHero local group leaders said he was going to present at his daughter's school, and asked me if we had any support material for primary school workshops. Although we currently don't have any material for the age range he was looking for, I said that a local zero waste partner group would certainly have some helpful slides or documents he could use - especially since the group is run by primary school teachers!
I was surprised and saddened when I was told that although they did in fact have a presentation for primary school kids, they couldn't share it with our organisation, as it was proprietary material...
Consider this for a moment: A non profit group established to help prevent litter and plastic pollution - and one rooted in primary school education, no less - was telling us that its educational resources could not be shared with another non profit group that shares the same objective.
If we look at powerful industry groups and lobbies, like those associated with petrochemical and plastics, we find strong unity of purpose and a consistent message that is spread far and wide. Such industries don't need to fear the growing number of highly fragmented zero waste and anti plastic pollution organisations. As long as organisations like ours are divided, industry will conquer!
"Consider this for a moment: A non profit group established to help prevent litter and plastic pollution was telling us that its educational resources could not be shared with another non profit group that shares a common objective."
I recently attended an excellent conference hosted by the Oceano Azul Foundation, and collected 3 buzzwords that kept repeating during the event: "Collaboration - Community - Sharing". Every organization that was present at the conference mentioned that they found collaboration in some for or other was essential, yet it is not what we frequently see in practice.
It makes all the sense to charge any profit making entity for presentations, workshops or other time consuming activities that can help such businesses improve their corporate behaviour or image. But we are almost all NON-profit groups in this sector, so it only makes sense to actively benchmark existing best practices, share documents and support material and help each other spread the zero waste mindset, without asking for anything in return.
Many of the individuals who initiate non profit and social or environmental action organizations are very driven and motivated to create bold brands that bear their personal mark. One of the driving factors is a strong ego. We need this ego to keep us going during the toughest moments, in what seems to be an endless and sometimes futile struggle against the odds and the titans of industry. But we cannot let our egos become bigger than our common cause: ending waste and stopping plastic pollution.
With so many urgent environmental issues at hand, why should we be so concerned about litter? Because it's the manageable tip of an environmental iceberg and here's how you and I can deal with it today.
Small actions with a BIG impact
Is picking up a piece of litter at a time even worth the effort? Research says it absolutely is. If your own actions can reset a situation like the one mentioned above, by fixing the broken window, then you have leveraged your litter picking actions exponentially. If you have done nothing more that spread the idea that we all have a stake in keeping our environment in good shape, as other people looked on bemused, then perhaps you will have taken the next massive step to conquering hearts and minds.
Hearts & Minds
Part of the act of picking litter in public aims to make a social statement, or in fact a number of statements:
The solitary act of picking litter from time to time will have a small positive effect compared to the massive effect that comes from conquering hearts and minds and starting to shift the mindset that has allowed litter and waste to become culturally acceptable.
The ultimate goal of the #LitterHero movement is the really focus on ending Waste in all forms of human misuse of resources. By pausing to collect and consider the quantity and nature of the litter that surrounds us in modern societies, we can stop and realise that it is the materialisation of massively wasteful practices, and that we have the technological means to live near waste free lives today and no extra cost.
The final realisation is that we are not mere consumers, at the mercy of whatever products are pushed our way, or victims of greedy corporations and the careless ways of other people. Instead, consider that you and me can choose to be either part of the problem, or a hero helping solve the problem.
Is it even worth getting started on local litter clean up activities when globally, mounting trash is such a massive problem? Yes it is, and here's why:
At times we are bombarded with so many negative statistics, articles, videos and comments relating to the state of the plante, that it all seems just too overwhelming. It happens to me often, but then I think "every single piece of litter on the street, in the forest and in the ocean was put there by someone not entirely unlike me. The same way it got there, it can be retrieved - piece by piece."
Is there a lot of work to be done? Certainly. Is it worth the time and effort? Unquestionably. This is our planet, our home, our street and our own back yard. It's easy to post angry and frustrated comments on social media, but ultimately it's up to you and me to take action to make things better.
The great news is that if even a few people start taking direct action such as joining local clean up initiatives, talking to and pressuring municipalities and telling their friends and family that every one of us can have an immediate and direct impact, then we can effect change on a Global scale. It all starts with me & you!
Wikipedia defines this as when one properly fulfills his or her role as a citizen. There are many opinions as to what constitutes a good citizen. Theodore Roosevelt said, "The first requisite of a good citizen ... is that he shall be able and willing to pull his weight." A great way to do that is to get involved with your local community.
Why focus on litter when there are so many even more pressing environmental concerns? It's a great question. One of the reasons I have chose to focus on litter is that I feel it's something so very easy to control, without even changing our lifestyle, just our habits, and if we are persuasive, the habits of our friends and family too. But it goes beyond the local manifestations of piled up kerb side trash; if we no longer accept such sights, we start to grow more aware of our surroundings and our impact on our environment, natural and man-made. Then we can start to shift our current paradigm and all live with more quality and abundance.
It is better to start young, but it is never too late to pick up the litter clean up habit. Here are some thoughts on how!
Written by Merran Van Der Tak
Retired marketing queen, lifelong smoker and full time #LitterHero.
After she retired in her late-60s, my mother-in-law started jogging every morning. There was a small woodland park behind her house with a trail along the stream. Her route took her through the park then up into “embassy row”, the part of Washington DC where many embassies and ambassadors' residences were clustered.
Shocked by the amount of litter she saw everywhere on her first jog, she took a large bag with her the next day and picked up litter as she went along – not only in the woodland but also on the streets and pedestrian areas around the embassies. The bag filled up quickly. She carried it with her until she found an appropriate place to dispose of the litter. Her daily “jog” became a stop-start clean-up exercise.
Until she was in her mid-80s and no longer mobile, she jogged every morning and always took a bag for collecting litter. Her jogging became slower as she aged – and the bag felt heavier as each year passed – but she persisted. It was pleasant when we visited, to be able to stroll in the pristine woodland. Needless to say, we helped to keep it clean.
My husband and I continued the habit when we retired to Portugal and began to walk (or, in his case, to jog) in the hills of Sintra. A bag or two for litter always went along in the back-pack. We picked up as much as we could carry as we followed the trails through the forest.
The hills here are much much bigger than the little park behind my mother-in-law's house, and our efforts here are just a drop in the bucket. But if each person carried his or her own litter home instead of dropping it, each of them would hardly notice the extra quantity or weight in their pockets. Instead, with my scrawny 45kg, I end up lugging a bag for kilometres until we reach a disposal bin.
And the trails through the hills are still full of litter. Perhaps we do not go out walking often enough. But where are all the other litter-collecting walkers?
Obviously, we cannot pick up all the building rubbish and discarded appliances which people drive into a wilderness area to dump waste. The logic of dumping waste in such a way defeats my logic. Why drive so far on rough trails – perhaps in the dark – when there are places and systems for disposing of it properly, accessible on nice paved roads? Yes, there is a charge for disposing of some items but it must be less than the cost of fuel and wear-and-tear from driving into the wilderness.
In many countries, school groups and scouts are organised (with protective gloves, proper instruction and supervision, etc.) to go out collecting litter in scenic areas. It probably beats sitting in a class-room but they are still learning something – they are often shocked by the horrible things which they find. Hopefully, it will make them think twice before they drop their litter in the future.
It might be too late to educate some of the older folks about proper disposal of litter. But, if youngsters can be taught (and enlisted to help to clean up), the next generations might be able to jog through their retirement on pristine trails without stop-start weight training at the same time.