We do a litter scan around Liberty County every June, rating 240 sites of 1 or more miles.
Our scans offer us a snapshot of how much litter is accumulating in each area. Are the snapshots scientific? No, but they give us an opportunity to see what is happening in our community. We use the scans in conjunction with the amount of litter collected annually in the locations to help gauge how the fight against litter is going.
The last 10 scans indicate that litter continues to decline in most areas. I am certainly glad because our cleanup volunteers, Adopt Liberty crews, and our municipal and county litter crews have worked hard to maintain our community. The scans also help us identify areas for litter education and cleanups.
Littering seems so stupid. According to the Keep America Beautiful 2009 "Littering Behavior in America" report, researchers observed the majority of people properly disposing of trash. But nearly 1 in 5 disposals (meaning how people got rid of their trash — 17 percent) ended up as litter. Most of this was done intentionally. A significant percentage also was blown from moving vehicles.
About 85 percent of littering is the result of people’s attitudes, according to the research. Changing individual behaviors is the key to preventing litter.
Environmental cues can make a difference. People who see litter are more likely to litter, for example. KAB research shows about 15 percent of littering is affected by the presence of litter.
The location of receptacles also makes a difference. Where people littered in public spaces, the nearest trash receptacles averaged about 29 feet away, according to the research. The rate decreased to 12 percent when people were within about 10 feet of areceptacle.
So, by adjusting public environments, we can reduce litter. These tips may help:
• Make proper disposal convenient. Provide sufficient trash, ash and recycling receptacles inside and outside your establishment in high-traffic areas.
• Identify high-traffic areas and places where litter accumulates. Make sure you have enough receptacles and that they’re the right size.
• Determine the best type of receptacle for your space.
• If the current receptacle frequently has litter around it, that’s a sign it’s inconvenient, not big enough or not serviced adequately.
• Service receptacles regularly. Train employees to pick up any trash around the receptacle as they empty it.
• Use landscaping and maintenance to promote a sense of personal responsibility. Making an effort to "beautify" your establishment results in less littering.
• Encourage customers to properly dispose of litter through direct engagement or on-package messaging.
To learn more, call Keep Liberty Beautiful at 912-880-4888 or email keepliber firstname.lastname@example.org.
Swida is executive director of Keep Liberty Beautiful.