We see the signs everywhere, “LITTERING IS A CRIME PUNISHABLE BY A MAXIMUM $1,000 FINE OR IMPRISONMENT UP TO ONE YEAR, OR BOTH!” (Litter, 2007). The question in the minds of many of us though is “Why do people litter and especially along our country roads?”
One of the definitions used for litter is “misplaced trash or solid waster” (Litter, 2007). Research in the area of “why do people litter” has been completed by several organizations and government entities. I will examine some of the reasons I found in the research.
One of the factors noted in the research was just simply lack of knowledge of the environmental effects of littering (Why, 2007). It has been shown in studies that just educating those who litter can make a difference in whether or not they continue to litter. We could speculate that possibly many of those in the country will not have as great of access to the information that helps to create an awareness to the problems littering creates.
When litter has already accumulated in an area, research has shown the area to be more susceptible by others to be seen as an easy dumping grounds or an invitation to dump more. One of the reasons they encourage volunteers and regular litter clean-ups is to prevent further litter build-up. Because country roads are less likely in general to be a part of litter clean-ups this can add to the problem.
Lack of social pressure to do the right thing was mentioned as contributing to the problem (Why, 2007). This could also be a contributing factor as to why litter is often seen more in rural areas or areas where the population tends to have a greater financial disadvantage. Litter in these areas may not be seen as great a priority as more basic needs and problems in the rural neighborhoods.
Another factor was mentioned as there being a lack or an absence of consistent enforcement of the laws against littering (Facts, 2004). Although signs may be posted, if there is seen to be lack of enforcement in backing those littering laws, they will have little effect in that area or neighborhood. This can be another reason why there may seem to be more litter along the less visible and often less-traveled country roads. Enforcement officers tend to concentrate where there is greater population.
According to one study, if the people or residents of an area have little pride in their neighborhood or in another person’s neighborhood, they are then more apt to toss out trash in that particular area. It also may be that if my neighbors yard is littered, it is less noticeable when my yard is littered. The country roads and rural areas are generally less noticeable than the city or urban areas.
It is no secret that individuals with higher income who live in the suburbs have more income to spend on lawn upkeep and continuous lawn maintenance. Many areas in the country attract those with less income who would have less to continuously maintain their properties and the roadways that run along their properties.
Lastly, it may be surprising to some, however, not all people see what they toss out as being regarded as litter. Studies show this is often the case for those who toss cigarette butts out the car window. When asked why they toss them along the roadside, they often respond in a way to indicate they do not feel as if cigarette butts, or some items should be included as trash or littering. However, cigarette butts “can take up to five years to break down” (Facts, 2004).
2004. Facts about litter. Department of Environment and Conservation. http://www.
Environment.nsw.gov (accessed April 21, 2007).
2007. Litter laws. Official Website of the city of Rock Hill. http://www.gov.pe.ca/
enveng/litter/index.php3?number=61866&lang=E (accessed April 21, 2007).
2007. Why do people litter? Government of Prince Edward Island.
April 21, 2007).
Wikipedia contributors, ‘Litter’, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 24 April 2007,
[accessed 24 April 2007]