How to Stop Littering

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In the book “Why Humans Cooperate: A Cultural and Evolutionary Explanation,” Natalie Heinrich and Joseph Patrick explain that most people believe that littering is wrong or even “disgusting” because of the negative effects littering has on the environment and society. Yet, some chronic litterers still have a hard time quitting the bad habit, even though they feel that it is wrong and fear being punished by tickets and fines. You can stop littering today by examining and changing some of your behaviors.

Throw your trash into trash cans only. If there isn’t a nearby trashcan, hold onto your trash until you find one. Items people throw onto the ground frequently include cigarette butts, drink cans and bottles, and fast food bags.

Pick up other people’s litter as you see it and put it inside a nearby trashcan. You’ll not only feel better about your past littering habits, but the action will reinforce your new anti-litter attitude. You can also join an anti-littering and clean-up program, such as Adopt a Highway.

Add only as much trash as your trashcan can easily hold. Do not overfill your trashcan, since the trash will only fall out and become litter. Keep the lid on your trashcan or, if you don't have one, replace your trashcan with a model that has a lid.

Clean debris out of the back of your pickup truck, if you have one. Trash flies out of truck beds on the highway, creating litter and a hazard to other drivers. Tie a tarp over the top of your truck bed when you transport items in it.

Keep a trash bag in your car so you don't feel tempted to toss trash out of the window. Keep plastic grocery bags in your glove compartment or purchase a reusable car trash bag that you can hook to the back of your car seat or the side of your center console. If you carry a purse or a backpack, keep a balled-up plastic bag in a side compartment to use to hold trash.

Tell your friends and family about your efforts to stop littering and why you regret littering. Your friends and family will help keep you accountable to your anti-littering promises, and may even rethink their own litter habits. Encourage friends and family to adopt the same practices and gently remind people about littering fines when you see them throw trash anywhere but trash cans or recycling bins.