Most Commonly Littered Items In Society

In this short guide, we identify the most commonly littered items across society.

This guide compliments our separate guides about the most common types of waste found on beaches and in oceans, and the most common waste types found in landfills.

All of these guides might be useful in identifying the types of waste we need to be more mindful of if we are to address waste pollution more effectively as a society.


Summary – Most Commonly Littered Items In Society

Most Commonly Littered Materials & Items

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

Glass bottles and aluminum cans can be found at some cleanups too

In the ocean, plastic items are some of the most common types of litter found floating in the ocean

One river cleanup found mostly it’s cigarette butts and plastic items as littered items


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/or 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

This can be due to a range of reasons


Littering vs Mismanaged Waste

There’s a difference between littering and mismanaged waste

Littering is the purposeful disposal of waste by consumers or producers into the environment

Mismanaged waste on the other hand includes both (or is the sum of) littered waste, and also inadequately disposed of waste which escapes or leaks from landfills and dumping sites, or is ineffectively managed by some other type of waste management option 

Our guide on the most common waste found on beaches and in the ocean includes waste that has been mismanaged


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

Beaches & 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



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


The most common types of land based litter found in the oceans includes mostly plastic items



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

Cigarette butts

Plastic bottles and bottle caps

Food packaging

Plastic bags

Aluminum cans



General Littering

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



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 – Case Studies

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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