Litter Prevention

Dispose of Waste Properly

Littering is a habit and occurs when people deliberately or carelessly dispose of solid waste improperly. Litter is caused by people. While there is a natural reaction to blame the industries whose products are most often littered, people are responsible for the proper handling and disposal of these products. Disposing of all waste properly, recycling everything you can and reducing the amount of waste you create helps. Litter drives down property values, and is a deterrent to new business and tourism. There is strong evidence that uncollected trash and other types of physical disorder like graffiti and abandoned vehicles make people feel unsafe and attracts crime.

Why People Litter

Keep America Beautiful has gathered information from numerous studies and reports about littering behavior. These are the primary reasons people litter:

  • People who litter have no sense of ownership of the community - they don't care.
  • People who litter think it is someone's job to pick up after them - even though litter cleanup has real costs in tax dollars, volunteer time, decreased property value and negative attitudes about littered communities.
  • People litter where other litter is already present - the presence of litter in a community sends the message that litter is tolerated here. This is why we pick up litter.

Changing our behavior in these areas will help reduce the litter problem: 


Always use a vehicle litter bag or otherwise secure items inside a vehicle. It is against the law to throw trash from a vehicle. This includes cigarette butts. Most of the trash in our creeks, lakes and rivers does not come from boaters. "Floatable" trash on streets often ends up in our waterways.

Uncovered Vehicles

It is against the law to allow items to fall or blow from a truck. Litter control workers believe that items falling or blowing from uncovered trucks is the single largest source of roadside litter in number of items and volume. Not only is litter from unsecured loads an eyesore, it is also a road hazard. Each year thousands of accidents are caused by vehicles striking or trying to avoid road debris that has fallen from trucks. These accidents cause substantial property damage, injuries and even death. This is why we have "tarp" laws.

Overflowing Commercial Dumpsters

Overfilled and uncovered commercial dumpsters are a major source of litter. Dumpster areas should be kept clean and containers must be protected from illegal use. Full dumpsters should be emptied promptly. Litter near an overflowing dumpster is scattered by weather and animals. A dumpster like the one pictured on the left can trash an entire neighborhood.


Pedestrians are a major source of litter. When you are out and must dispose of an item, always carry the item to a trash can or if necessary, carry it home to dispose of with your household trash. Never place trash on the ground next to a full container or on other objects such as newspaper stands, phone booths, etc. Better yet, pick up some trash each time you are out. Littering in parks wastes tax dollars.

Improperly Stored Household Trash

Another major source of litter is unsecured household trash. Always make sure your trash is in a tightly sealed container so it cannot be scattered by weather or animals.

Construction & Demolition Sites

Construction and demolition sites are the other major source of litter. Construction material waste, worker trash, items falling from delivery and waste hauling vehicles, cement truck waste and excavation waste often have a major negative impact on the properties surrounding the job. Clean, orderly worksites are safer than trashy, disorderly worksites.

Get Involved

Contact the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to learn how you can become part of the solution. Call (518) 402-8704 for more information and

Download the brochure "Let's Pick It Up New York! (PDF)"