Greenville County
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Litter Prevention
Litter Education Facts
How long does it take for roadside litter to decompose?

Litter is a social problem that affects us all. Litter on the roads and highways are a direct result of individual actions.

Cigarette butts are the number one most frequently littered item.

Cigarette butts make up roughly 38% of all U.S. roadway litter and take over 5 years to decompose. (According to information obtained by PalmettoPride about 95% of cigarette filters are composed of cellulose acetate, a plastic which can persist in the environment for 10+years.)

Other commonly littered items also take extremely long to decompose:

  • Plastic bag - (20 years),
  • Tin can - (50 years),
  • Aluminum can - (200 years),
  • Plastic bottle - (450 years),
  • Glass bottle - (1 million years),

Did you know that litter near storm drains, especially plastics can contaminate waterways? Storm drains lead to waterways, so litter poses a potential hazard to marine life and our nation's water system.

Results from the nation's largest litter study as posted by Keep America Beautiful states that over 51 billion pieces of litter appear on U.S. roadways each year.

That's 51 Billion pieces!!! Let that sink in for a minute...

Packaging litter makes up nearly 46% of litter 4 inches and greater. This includes but is not limited to fast food containers, snack wrappers, plastic bags and other packing products.

Besides the negative environmental impact, littering also has a direct effect on your bank account. Litter on the streets causes property values to decrease and property taxes to increase.

Did you know that litter also causes car insurance rates to increase?
(Litter especially larger items when left in the street can become a contributor in motor vehicle accidents. Insurance companies take this into consideration when determining rates so the more litter on the streets in your area the more money you will have to pay for insurance.)