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 plano.gov/cleanups.
Most Commonly Littered Items
- 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.
- 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!)
- 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.
Major Sources of Litter
- 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.
Litter is Expensive
The City of Plano spends approximately $500,000 each year toward litter and illegal dumping cleanups. The State of Texas spends almost $50 million each year to pick up litter. Most of the litter (about 90%) is picked up by the City of Plano's work crew, 10% is picked up by dedicated Adopt-A-Highway and litter cleanup volunteers.
Litter is also expensive to homeowners. Houses that are for sale in littered neighborhoods usually don't get the best prices. Fires started by dropped or dumped litter (cigarettes, toxic materials, etc.) cause millions of dollars in damage every year.
Litter is Illegal
In Texas, if you are caught littering from a vehicle you can be fined up to $500. A second littering offense could get a fine up to $2,000 and as much as 180 days in jail. Even if you open a package of gum and drop the wrapper on the sidewalk, you could get a fine.
Litter is Harmful
- People get in car accidents trying to avoid litter on roadways.
- Both people and animals can cut themselves from certain types of litter.
- Illegally dumped garbage can kill or stunt plant growth.
- Many small animals crawl into bottles or jars and get stuck and starve to death.
- Birds, small animals and water creatures eat or get tangled in plastic bags or plastic 6-ring holders.
How You Can Help Control Litter
All of us can take responsibility to educate people, especially our family and friends, about the awful effects of littering. Our example is the best way to educate others, so first and foremost - don't litter!
Visit the community cleanup registration page or sign up for one of our annual cleanup events.
Life Expectancy of Litter
|Littered Item||Number of Years to Decompose|
|Cigarette butts||5 - 30 years|
|Styrofoam, glass, and car tires||Over 1 million years|
|Banana peels, apple cores, other food items||Up to 5 weeks|
|Aluminum cans||200 - 500 years|
|Plastic bags||Up to 600 years|