Litter is more than just a mark on our landscape. Litter is costly to clean up, impacts our quality of life and economic development, and eventually ends up in our waterways and oceans. Among our many initiatives, the Keep America Beautiful® Litter Index and Community Appearance Index are step-by-step methods of assessing current litter conditions and other indicators which is used in thousands of communities and by municipalities nationwide.
Today, we are as committed as ever to providing people with the resources to help prevent litter with the ultimate goal of helping to end littering in America.
Get the most up-to-date research and information on litter and littering behavior and learn about our programs to help you take action in your community.
Litter Research & Statistics
In 2021, Keep America Beautiful released the largest study on litter in America. The Keep America Beautiful 2020 National Litter Study provides a detailed understanding of the quantity, composition, and sources of litter across the United States. The organization’s 2020 Study is a follow-up to its landmark 2009 study, which builds on a history of science-based litter research started by Keep America Beautiful in 1969.
Key findings include:
- Nearly 50 billion pieces of litter along U.S. roadways and waterways
- Slightly more litter along waterways (25.9B) than roadways (23.7B)
- 152 items for each U.S. resident
- More than 2,000 pieces of litter per mile (both roadway and waterway)
- 90% of people surveyed believe litter is a problem in their state
- 6 billion pieces more than four inches in size
- Most littered item remains cigarette butts, but this litter is down almost 70%
- 207.1M PPE items littered
The Study uses world class methodology and is led by academics, professional social scientists, and leading researchers with the support of corporate America, foundations, and individuals. It follows a multi-method approach looking at both quantitative and qualitative data composed of four components: Observed Litter, Littering Behavior, Attitudes About Litter, and the Cost of Litter.
Keep America Beautiful retained Burns & McDonnell, a leading environmental engineering firm, to conduct its 2020 Study.
Community Appearance Index
Each year, our powerful network of community-based affiliates conducts a comprehensive assessment of the overall appearance of their community using indicators such as litter, illegal signs, graffiti and more.
This proprietary tool, called the Community Appearance Index, is designed to gather data annually by surveying a random, statistical sample of a city or town. The annual results are then used to develop a local plan to change attitudes and behaviors regarding litter and related issues.
For more information about the Community Appearance Index, contact our Affiliate Services Department.
Cigarette Litter Prevention Program
The Cigarette Litter Prevention Program (CLPP) is the nation’s largest program aimed at eliminating cigarette litter. Since its inception, the program has been successfully implemented in more than 1,700 U.S. communities nationwide.
Over the past 10 years, the CLPP has consistently cut cigarette butt litter by approximately 50 percent in the first four months to six months after program implementation. The initiative provides grant funding and easily accessible information about ash receptacles, pocket and portable ashtrays, and other education and awareness tools.