Understanding Litter

Litter is misplaced solid waste and costs an estimated $11.5 billion each year to cleanup. In a series of studies conducted by Keep America Beautiful, the primary sources and locations of litter include: roadways, storm drains, loading docks, recreational areas and construction and retail sites. The “individual” is the most important factor in determining whether litter will occur;  85% of littering behavior is due to individual attitudes and lack of awareness, education and concern. Littering can be negligent  which makes it important to secure truck loads, maintain loading docks and to cover and regularly service trash and recycling receptacles. The existing environment also plays a role; research shows that litter begets more litter and beautiful spaces are less likely to be littered.

How Can I Help?

Cleaning up our state requires the “three Es” – a united effort to educate people about the problem, eradicate litter from our communities and enforce litter laws. You can help by educating yourself and others about the problem; the facts below are a good place to start. Then consider volunteering with one of the many groups working on the litter issue in your community such as one of Georgia’s 76 Keep America Beautiful affiliates or with another Road, Stream, Park or Highway Adoption Group.


  • Litter is misplaced, abandoned, or discarded waste.
  • Litter impacts our quality of life, destroying the state’s natural beauty, harming or killing wildlife, diminishing water quality and causing increased costs to treat it for public consumption.
  • Litter is everyone’s responsibility.
  • Littered recyclable items are a lost resource.
  • A clean community welcomes economic growth and development.


2012 Keep America Beautiful Great American Cleanup

  • 87 Million Pounds of Litter & Debris Collected
  • 193,000 Acres of Park & Public Land Cleaned
  • 90,000 Miles of Roadways Cleaned
  • 1.6 Million Tires Collected
  • 4.2. Million Volunteers Participated
  • 7,000 Educational Workshops Held
  • In Georgia, year round education efforts have reduced the amount of litter collected during the Great American Cleanup by 75% over the last ten years


Comprehensive Litter Prevention and Abatement Act of 2006

  • The act specifies penalties for littering by type of litter, anyone caught littering in Georgia can be ordered to pay a fine of as much as $1,000 or more.
  • Convicted litters can also be ordered to clean up a littered area in a community
  • The act holds the driver responsible for litter leaving a vehicle
  • It is illegal to place any poster, sign or advertisement in the public right of way or on any public property unless authorized. Violators are guilty of a misdemeanor.
  • Illegally dumping more than 500 pounds is considered a misdemeanor on the first offense. A second conviction is a felony, punishable by a fine of up to $25,000 or a prison sentence of up to two years (or both)
  • Municipal, Probate, Magistrate, State, and Superior Courts all have jurisdiction over littering citations

Environmental Contact

  • If you would like more information on Litter Awareness, or need help finding your local affiliate, please contact Keep Georgia Beautiful at (404) 679-4910.
  • The Department of Transportation is not currently accepting applications for the state Adopt A Highway program but for general program information, call the Georgia Department of Transportation at (404) 631-1387 
  • For information on Adopt-A-Stream or Rivers Alive, Georgia’s Annual Water Way Cleanup, call the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Environmental Protection Division at (404) 675-6240 or visit