Research and experience prove that litter — intentional or unintentional pollution resulting from consumer waste products being carelessly handled or improperly disposed — attracts more litter. A clean community, by contrast, discourages littering and raises local living standards and quality of life. 

Why do people litter?

People tend to litter because they feel no sense of personal ownership. In addition, even though areas such as parks and beaches are public property people often believe that someone else, a park maintenance or highway worker, will take responsibility to pick up litter that has accumulated over time. Because any and all items used in human activity have a potential of being littered, the scale of this issue is significant. 

Because Keep America Beautiful believes litter is often a starting point for other community blight, and that everyone shares a personal responsibility to help prevent litter in their community, we encourage solutions that involve public education and volunteer action. Knowing more about the causes of litter and where it comes from is a good place to start in addressing litter prevention. One person, one business, one organization can positively affect the behavior of others in their community.

Keep America Beautiful has compiled many examples of what you — and others — can do to help prevent litter in your community. >Learn More

Keep America Beautiful knows that there is no such thing as a single source of litter or a single profile of a litterer. What we do know is that there are seven primary sources of litter:

  • Pedestrians or cyclists who do not use receptacles.

  • Motorists who do not use car ashtrays or litter bags.

  • Business dumpsters that are improperly covered.

  • Loading docks and commercial or recreational marinas with inadequate waste receptacles.

  • Construction and demolition sites without tarps and receptacles to contain debris and waste.

  • Trucks with uncovered loads on local roads and highways.

  • Household trash scattered before or during collection.



Trash Containers

  • Place an adequate number of trash containers in parking lots as well as inside and outside of all building entrances. 

  • Establish a regular schedule for emptying trash containers. Avoid having trash emptied on an ‘as needed’ basis.  

  • This will prevent trash overflows. 

  • Replace broken, dirty or damaged containers. 

  • Use only covered trash containers to eliminate trash from spilling or blowing out. 


  • Establish the expectation that employees will pick up trash anywhere in or around your place of business.  Let them know that it is not acceptable to walk past litter.

  • Removed trapped litter from fence lines on a regularly scheduled basis.

  • Establish smoking areas with appropriate ash receptacles for employees and customers. 


  • Place only tied bags of trash in outdoor dumpsters. This greatly decreases loose trash from blowing out of the dumpster during collection.

  • Call the city’s Solid Waste Department when your dumpster is near to overflowing, or if your current level of service is not sufficient. Change or increase scheduled pickups, if necessary.  

  • Enclose dumpsters with fences or walls to minimize the amount of trash that will blow to other areas of your business or onto city streets and rights-of-way. Remove trash from the enclosure area regularly.


Commit to reducing loose trash from company vehicles by:

  • Requiring tarps on any vehicles transporting materials.

  • Requiring tightly sealed containers to transport materials that are not covered by tarps.

  • Instructing drivers to pick up any materials that have fallen off of their load.  

  • Instructing drivers to discard cigarette butts in vehicle ashtrays.

  • Adding trash bags to company vehicles.



Before the Cleanup

  • Cleanups must take place in public access areas such as along streets or waterways.  Choose a location that will be enjoyed by many people.  
  • Create a “Cleanup Committee” to help you with organizing the cleanup.  Assign responsibilities and set deadlines for getting volunteers, litter cleanup supplies, business support, publicity, etc.
  • Get permission from the government agency responsible for the land or the property owner (e.g. city, county, state).  
  • Visit the site to estimate the number of volunteers, supplies, and time needed to do the cleanup.  Also, look for potential safety hazards.  
  • During the site visit, choose a location where the bags of litter can be placed for pickup.  
  • Pick a date (weekday or weekend) and time for the cleanup that allows as many volunteers as possible to participate.  Pick a rain date, too, just in case.  
  • Ask businesses to donate snacks or drinks
  • Take “before” photos.  
  • Tell your local newspaper, radio, and television station about the litter cleanup and the positive impact it will have.  

The Day of the Cleanup

Group Leader

  • Set up an assembly area where volunteers can meet before and after the cleanup.
  • Have the volunteers sign-in, assign responsibilities, give litter cleanup and safety instructions, distribute the litter cleanup supplies, and tell the volunteers what time they should finish.  
  • Volunteers should sign a “release of liability form.”
  • Based on the number of volunteers and the size of the cleanup site, divide your volunteers into pairs or manageable teams with team captains and assign them to areas within the cleanup site. 
  • For large cleanups, provide a map of the area to your volunteers.  
  • Know emergency procedures, such as the location of the nearest emergency facility and how to quickly summon the police or an ambulance.  
  • Have a first aid kit and cellular phone on hand.  
  • Be aware of all known allergies of volunteers before participation.  
  • Watch out for traffic near roads, even in residential areas.  
  • Provide adequate adult supervision if you involve youth groups (e.g. one adult can usually handle eight participants between the ages of 10-17).
  • Hypodermic needles can be collected in 2-liter bottles, sealed, and disposed of with the rest of the litter collected.  Do NOT allow children to handle these or other potentially infectious items.  
  • Reconvene every hour to make sure that all participants are accounted for, safe, and enjoying the cleanup.  
  • Consider using walkie-talkies as a communication device between groups.  
  • Take “during” photos.  
  • After the cleanup, hold a cookout at the assembly area for the volunteers.  


  • Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts.
  • Wear safety vests or bright colors for roadside cleanups.
  • Wear sunscreen and bug repellant.  
  • Drink plenty of fluids and keep “quick energy foods” on hand.  
  • Be aware of your surroundings and the potential hazards associated with them (e.g. passing cars, hazardous tree branches, poison ivy, etc.)
  • Use the “buddy system.”  Work in teams of two or three to maximize safety.  
  • Keep pre-moistened towelettes on hand and wash hands with antibacterial soap.  
  • Bag litter to meet local regulations.  
  • Place litter that can be recycled (e.g. aluminum cans, steel cans, plastic bottles, glass jars) into separate bags.  
  • Use protective gloves when picking up hazardous materials such as hypodermic needles, sharp objects, old car batteries, condoms, animal carcasses, or other identified, questionable objects.  

Bagging Litter and Bulk Items/Removal
Here are some important tips for making the removal of bagged litter and illegally dumped bulk items for your cleanup easy, safe, and legal.  

  • Remember, litter cleanups are to take place in public access areas.  
  • Litter cleanups are just that: litter cleanups, NOT household cleanouts.  
  • If your cleanup area has alleys with 300-gallon trash containers, you can put the bags of litter in the containers.  However, do not put all of the bags in each of the 300-gallon trash containers located along the alleys in your cleanup area.  This will allow the residences to continue using the containers until they are emptied. 
  • Ask a private refuse company to donate a dumpster for your litter cleanup; or, seek the permission of a business to place the bags of litter in their dumpster.  
  • Have each volunteer take home a bag or two for collection from their residences.  
  • Request the Refuse Collection Division to pick up the bags of litter.  The bags will be picked up the next work day following your cleanup.  It is important to choose a location that the drivers can see and access for collection, but does not attract the dumping of additional trash.  
  • The Refuse Collection Division cannot collect bulk items that require special processing prior to disposal.  Examples include (but are not limited to): hazardous, flammable, or explosive materials; auto parts and cast iron materials; excavating and building materials; refrigerated appliances; yard waste (a curbside service); tires; pianos; pool tables.

After the Cleanup

  • Keep a list, complete with names and phone numbers, should you decide to do a litter cleanup again.  
  • After the cleanup, write thank-you letters to anyone who donated goods or services, and to public officials who involved their departments.  
  • Be sure to thank everyone who volunteered.  
  • Take “after” photos.  

If you would like free supplies for your cleanup event, call our office at 405-286-9141.