Most Commonly Littered Items In Society

This is a short guide where we identify the most commonly littered items in society, across the land, rivers, beaches, and oceans.

It might be useful in identifying the types of waste we need to be more mindful of if we are to reduce littering pollution in society.


Summary – Most Commonly Littered Items In Society

Most Commonly Littered Materials & Items

Plastic items (plastic packaging, bottles, caps/lids, cutlery, straws, bags, and so on), and cigarette butts seem to be by far the most littered items on land and beaches.

Glass bottles and aluminum cans can be found in some places too.

In the ocean, plastic, fishing gear, and industrial rubbish are found in high quantities.

In rivers, it’s cigarette butts, plastic and aluminum cans.


Potential Reasons For Littering

Some of the most common reasons individuals litter might be laziness, lack of bins, lack of ashtrays, and grinding cigarette butts into the ground.

For businesses it may be different – it may be related to dumping being easier or cheaper. A lack of laws/regulations and enforcement of these laws may be further reasons for businesses.

In some countries, rubbish can escape unsecured and open dumping sites that aren’t contained properly.

So, a cause of waste pollution can be waste management systems that aren’t working as they should be i.e. securing and containing waste properly.


What Littered Items Are Found On Land, On Beaches, In Oceans, & In Rivers?

Some of the most common items found on beaches are:



Plastic Beverage Bottles

Plastic Bags

Food Wrappers/Containers

Cups, Plates, Forks, Knives, Spoons

Glass Beverage Bottles

Straws, Stirrers

Beverage Cans

Paper Bags


Fishing gear, industrial material, washed off plastic and land origin garbage are commonly found in oceans



On World Clean Up Day, the top 10 items picked up by Ocean Conservancy Volunteers were:

1. Cigarette Butts

2. Food Wrappers (Candy Wrappers, Energy Bar Wrappers)

3. Plastic Bottles

4. Plastic Bottle Caps

5. Plastic Grocery Bags

6. Other Plastic Bags

7. Straws

8. Plastic Takeout Containers

9. Plastic Lids

10. Foam Takeout Containers



According to Keep America Beautiful, some of the most littered items are:

Cigarette butts


Food wrappers and cups


Food itself


Gum wrappers

Plastic bottles

Beverage cans



Some of the most common items found at river cleanups are:

Cigarette butts

Plastic bottles and bottle caps

Food packaging

Plastic bags

Aluminum cans



According to, and the Victorian Litter Action Alliance, the most commonly littered items in Victoria, Australia are:

1. Cigarette butts

2. Glass bottles (alcohol and soft drink)

3. Plastic bottles/ PET drink bottles

4. Aluminium cans (alcohol and soft drink)

5. Plastic bags.


When, How & Why People Litter

You can read a case study about when, how and why people litter at 

Another case study can be read at











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