Learn About Litter
What is litter? - A broad definition is “man-made or man-transported products or materials in the wrong place.”
What is litter composed of? - U.S. surveys have found that about half of all litter is of deliberate origin, consisting mainly of convenience packaging and products. The other half of litter is of accidental origin, resulting from uncovered trucks, unsecured loads, loss of vehicle parts, trashcan spills, and simple human carelessness.
Who is responsible for the litter on our roadways? - Nationally, males have been found to be responsible for 72 percent of all deliberate littering and 89 percent of all accidental littering. Additionally, male motorists driving pickup trucks are a disproportionate source of litter. This group is responsible for almost a third of all littering by motorists and two-thirds of the escaping single items from vehicles.
Where does litter go? - Data indicates that there are four major ways that litter is eventually removed from roadsides. Homeowners, street and highway crews, and Adopt-a-Highway and other volunteer groups pick up about 40 percent of all litter. Another 24 percent (mostly in vacant lots and along low volume rural roads) is rarely picked up and either biodegrades or, if think plastic, eventually photo degrades. Eighteen percent of all litter is washed into streams, rivers, lakes, and the ocean by storm water runoff. The remaining 17 percent (mostly non-degradable) is gradually covered by soil buildup or decaying vegetation. This material is not actually gone but is no longer visible.
Facts about Mississippi's Litter Problem
  • Mississippi has a serious litter problem, with litter rates along rural roads 30 percent higher than the average of other states.
  • Sixty-two percent of all Mississippi litter is deliberate in origin, mostly consisting of convenience products: take-out, snack, and beverage packaging and other disposable items.
  • Deliberate litter is a higher percentage of total litter in Mississippi than in other states.
  • Studies across the country indicate that 75 percent of persons deliberately littering along interstates and rural roadways are between the ages of 11 and 34 years and are mostly male.
  • Accidental litter, from open bed vehicles and trashcan spills, comprises 38 percent of Mississippi’s litter.
  • Seventy-one percent of Mississippi’s litter is actually viewed by the public on interstates and rural highways.
Composition of Mississippi Litter
  • 26.6% Take-out food packaging, cups, napkins, etc.
  • 17.3% Beverage containers, caps, tabs, cartons
  • 9.8% Miscellaneous plastic, metal, foil, glass
  • 9.4% Candy, gum, snacks
  • 9.1% Miscellaneous paper, cartons
  • 7.4% Vehicle parts, supplies, debris
  • 6.7% Newspapers, advertisements, food packaging, yard trimmings, other
  • 5.7% Cigarette packs, matchbooks
  • 5.4% Building materials, construction debris
  • 2.6% Toiletries, toys, cassettes, recreation
Source: Mississippi Litter 2000, A Baseline Survey of Litter at 113 Street and Highway Locations, by Daniel B. Syrek of The Institute for Applied Research and J. Frank Bernheisel of Gershman, Brickner & Bratton, Inc.