March 26, 2021
By Alana Semuels

Across the country, as the weather improved and pandemic lockdowns were lifted, Americans ventured outside and noticed that their neighborhoods looked a little different.

A little. . . dirtier.

They saw mattresses piled outside cemeteries and disposable masks clogging the gutters. Vacuum cleaners left in the woods, fast food wrappers blowing on the highway, piles of tires. Neighborhoods that had been relatively clean before the pandemic were now full of litter.

There were 24 billion pieces of litter alongside highways, and 26 billion pieces of litter along waterways in 2020, according to data compiled by the nonprofit litter prevention group Keep America Beautiful and shared exclusively with Time. 

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