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
Cups, Plates, Forks, Knives, Spoons
Glass Beverage Bottles
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
8. Plastic Takeout Containers
9. Plastic Lids
10. Foam Takeout Containers
According to Keep America Beautiful, some of the most littered items are:
Food wrappers and cups
Some of the most common items found at river cleanups are:
Plastic bottles and bottle caps
According to geelongaustralia.com.au, 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 https://www.litter.vic.gov.au/About-litter/Littering-behaviour
Another case study can be read at https://www.kab.org/sites/default/files/News%26Info_Research_LitteringBehaviorinAmerica_2009Report_Final.pdf