News

2020 National Study Proves Litter Reduced Over Time

May 6, 2021

Columbia, SC — Keep South Carolina Beautiful (KSCB), a division of PalmettoPride, announces the release of the 2020 Keep America Beautiful study on litter in America. The study provides a comprehensive understanding of the “quantitative and qualitative data composted of four components:  observed litter, littering behavior, attitudes about litter, and the cost of litter.”

“The data collected from the KAB Litter Study will allow us to understand better why and where littering behaviors occur, and how to develop better solutions to littering impacts,” said Mallory Coffey, KSCB State Leader and Vice President of KAB’s State Leader Council.

This is the most comprehensive nationwide litter study in our country’s history. It provides “a valid, national estimate of litter along waterways in the U.S., and insights about the relationship between litter on waterways and roadways.”

“Comprehensive litter studies are expensive and not easily achievable by non-profits. The benefit of being a part of Keep America Beautiful is being able to participate with other states in a national study from a collective-resource stand-point,” said Sarah Lyles, Executive Director of PalmettoPride. “Litter is not unique to South Carolina and preventing it will take a national movement to change our culture.”

In addition, the study reveals litter on roadways has reduced by 54% since 2009. This achievement illustrates how enforcement, pickup, awareness, and education work together to prevent the impacts of litter. However, we still see litter along our roadways across the nation. According to the KAB 2020 Litter Study, “there are still 50 billion pieces of litter on the ground,” and “although roadway litter is down by more than 50%, there is slightly more litter along waterways.”

Other findings show 90% of U.S. residents agree that litter is a problem for their state. There were an estimated 207 million pieces of PPE littered along U.S. roadways and waterways through early fall 2020. It was determined there are estimated to be more than 2,000 pieces of litter per mile of highway in the U.S.

“To many across South Carolina and this nation, these numbers show an astronomical issue. However, like the staff of KAB has shared during conversations concerning the study, this is a solvable problem,” stated Coffey.

The message KAB is sharing with the nation is a direct result of the study. If people who litter would stop, if waste were appropriately managed, and if every American picked up 152 pieces of litter, we would have a litter-free nation. The mission and efforts of PalmettoPride, its divisions, and partners share the same litter-reduction formula: pickup, awareness, education, and enforcement.

The visual of each American having to pick up 152 pieces of litter to be litter-free is impactful. We need to come together as a state to focus on prevention rather than pickup. That requires tools and policies in place where they can be effective. PalmettoPride can help communities determine areas that are ripe for prevention, like neighborhoods and school zones and those that are better-suited for routine pickup, like roads leading to landfills.

“Our success is not without its challenges. In addition to eradicating litter, the added challenges of population growth, highway construction, transient lifestyles, and information competition make it harder than before to engage volunteers. Still, we’re making it work,” said Coffey.

To learn more about the KAB 2020 Litter Study visit:  https://kab.org/litter-study/.

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PalmettoPride is working towards a litter-free South Carolina. Created as a legislative initiative to fight litter and help beautify South Carolina by engaging citizens to take action in their communities through education, enforcement, awareness, and pickup. Keep South Carolina Beautiful is a division of PalmettoPride and is the state affiliate of Keep America Beautiful. KSCB oversees more than 30 affiliates across the state and provides resources, training, and guidance to those affiliates.

Keep America Beautiful, the nation’s leading community improvement nonprofit organization, inspires and educates people to take action every day to improve and beautify their community environment. Established in 1953, Keep America Beautiful strives to End Littering, Improve Recycling, and Beautify America’s Communities.

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