Littering in Context: Personal and Environmental Predictors of Littering Behavior

This article reports the results from a large-scale study of littering behavior. Findings are reported from coded observations of the littering behavior among 9,757 individuals at 130 outdoor public locations in the United States. The focus was on littering behavior of any item, but a separate sample is also reported on the littering behavior of only smokers. For smokers, the observed littering rate for cigarette butts was 65%. Results from the general littering observations showed that of all the disposal behaviors observed, 17% resulted in litter. Statistical analyses using multilevel modeling showed that age (negatively) was predictive of individual littering. At the level of the site, the presence of existing litter (positively) and the availability of trash receptacles (negatively) predicted littering. Supplemental analyses showed that among individuals who disposed of an item, distance to the receptacle was positively predictive of littering.Implications for litter prevention strategies are discussed.