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Why is litter a problem?

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American generates 4.3 pounds of solid waste per day. Based on this average and the state’s population, Missouri accounts for more than 25 million pounds (11,000 tons) of garbage in one day – more than 9 billion pounds (4 million tons) of trash per year.

A great deal of that trash shows up in the Show-Me State’s roadsides, natural areas and waterways. Roadside litter cleanup costs the Missouri Department of Transportation more than $6 million each year, with another $1.5 million worth of labor from Adopt-A-Highway volunteers. The Missouri Stream Team removed 869 tons of litter from the state’s waterways and dedicated $2.5 million worth of volunteer work in 2009 – resources that could be used for something much more positive.

Litter poses health risks and creates roadway and waterway safety hazards. It negatively affects property values, housing prices, landscape appearance and overall quality of life. Litter’s environmental consequences harm water quality and plant health, degrade natural areas and hurt wildlife. Littering is illegal in Missouri and can result in a fine of up to $1,000 and/or a year in jail..

For more information about litter in America, visit the Keep America Beautiful website.

Litter is a personal choice that results from individual and community attitudes. Litter prevention ultimately depends on the public’s sense of ownership for their environment: people are more likely to dispose of trash properly when they feel personally responsible for maintaining clean and beautiful public areas.

Litter check your life.

There are many ways to reduce litter, and all of them require evaluating our lifestyles as individuals, schools, communities and businesses. Use these guidelines to litter check your life.

Individuals:

  • Close your trash cans securely.
  • Empty your truck bed or cover the load before you drive.
  • If you have a boat, make sure all loose items are out of it before hauling it home.
  • Keep a trash bag handy in your vehicle.
  • Don’t throw something into an outdoor trash can that is already too full.
  • If you smoke, always deposit cigarette butts in a proper receptacle and keep an ashtray in your vehicle.
  • Report any illegal trash dumps to the Department of Natural Resources.
  • Carry reusable grocery bags to reduce waste from plastic bags.

Schools:

  • Place plenty of trash cans where needed, especially around gymnasiums, cafeterias and outdoor sports areas.
  • Inform students of the hazards of litter and what they can do to prevent it.
  • Encourage student projects such as writing about the benefits of being litter free, making trash bags for cars or creating art that promotes litter-free living.

Communities:

  • Use signs and public service messages to spread the litter-free message to your community.
  • Host litter-free events such as community cleanups.
  • Promote recycling and make it easily accessible.

Businesses:

  • Encourage litter-free living for your employees, both at home and at work.
  • Provide and maintain trash receptacles and recycling bins in strategic locations for customers.
  • Support litter-prevention efforts in your community.