Litter Facts

  1. What is Litter?
  2. Harmful Effects of Litter

What is Litter?

Litter is trash that is on the ground. Litter can be found on the grass, on the street, on the highway, in trees, along a fence line, in neighborhoods, blowing in the air, and in our waterways. Litter can be intentional or accidental. Littering is against the law in Texas.

Do your part to make sure you don’t litter, and if you find litter, pick it up and put it in a trash can or recycling bin. Want to do more for the community? Register for a community litter cleanup at

Most Commonly Littered Items

  1. Cigarette butts. Over 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are discarded annually in the U.S. Cigarette butt litter makes up 30% of the litter stream in the U.S. and is not biodegradable. Cigarette filters are made out of cellulose acetate, a plastic which is harmful to aquatic life and wildlife. Smokers should extinguish and dispose cigarette butts properly in trash cans or ash receptacles.
  2. Plastic Bags. Each year in the U.S., 30 billion plastic bags are made, and 1-3% of single plastic bags become litter, and they are not biodegradable. Most plastic bags in the United States are made natural gas or petroleum oil. Reusable bags can eliminate the need for 1,000 single-use plastic bags. BYOB (Bring your own bag!)
  3. Packaging. Single-use fast food, snack, tobacco, beverage, and other packaging make up nearly 46% of litter 4 inches and larger in the U.S.

close up of litter.jpgMajor Sources of Litter

  • Pedestrians
  • Motorists
  • Truck beds
  • Residential trash and recycling carts
  • Commercial trash and recycling dumpsters
  • Loading docks
  • Construction and demolition sites

6 Most Common Reasons People Give for Littering

  • They don't feel the area "belongs" to them.
  • They think someone else will pick up after them.
  • There are no disposal containers available.
  • They are "too lazy" to walk to the trash container.
  • They see other people litter, so they think it must be okay.
  • Litter has already accumulated so by leaving litter there, they're not doing any more harm than has already been done.

Life Expectancy of Litter

 Littered ItemNumber of Years to Decompose
Cigarette butts5 - 30 years
Styrofoam, glass, and car tiresOver 1 million years
Banana peels, apple cores, other food itemsUp to 5 weeks
Aluminum cans200 - 500 years
Plastic bagsUp to 600 years