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How to Encourage People to Use Trash Receptacles and Stop Littering

Littering is not exclusive to the United States. It is a problem that can be found in all parts of the globe — even some of the world’s most precious and natural spaces.

Every year, our oceans see a steady increase in trash pollution. Nearly 80% of this marine litter originates from land-based sources. It may not seem like it at the time, but a plastic bottle tossed onto the side of the road could eventually find its way into the sea. Drifting from land, an improperly disposed plastic bottle could be swept into a sewage drain and then a stream or river. Finally, the plastic bottle may be washed into the ocean, where it can take anywhere from 400 to 450 years to decompose.

The issue of littering is almost entirely preventable and often a deliberate act made by individuals. A 2009 survey found that approximately 81% of littering behavior is intentional. The most common improper disposal strategies consisted of dropping and flicking items onto the ground. About 54% of people who litter dropped garbage with notable intent and 20% flicked or flung the items.

What motivates people to litter?

The concept of littering isn’t easy for many of us to understand, especially when there is so much news circulating about climate change and the damage litter causes to our planet and wildlife. But if we want to stop littering, we must understand why people do it in the first place.

Littering stems from a few reasons: carelessness, a lack of access to trash receptacles, little presence in law enforcement or litter fines, and existing litter in the area. Research shows that 15% of littering occurs when there is already evidence of littering in the environment.

When thinking about the big picture, the issue of littering may seem overwhelming. Fortunately, there are a lot of ways to combat the problem. One way is by making the disposal of trash more convenient and accessible to people. Continue reading to learn more about how to encourage people to stop littering by using trash receptacles.

Place Trash Receptacles Nearby

When adding trash receptacles to a park or public space, it is important to think about the location. Litter is often found at a notable distance from trash receptacles. According to a study about littering behavior in America, approximately 12% of people litter when a receptacle is 10 feet or closer. As the distance away from a trash receptacle continues to increase, so does the litter rate.

If you plan to put trash receptacles in a public area, get an idea of how many people use that space. The more popular the area, the more trash receptacles needed. Good places to put trash receptacles are parks, crosswalks, bus stations, food vendors and near street furniture (ie. benches and picnic tables). Having a place to dispose of trash that is convenient and accessible is a step towards reducing the amount of litter in your area.

Ensure Trash Receptacles are Easy to Use

Using a trash receptacle should be simple without any extra steps. The more complicated the process of throwing trash away, the more likely people may choose to litter. Trash receptacles with good design and appropriate sizing is key.

One important characteristic to look for in trash receptacles is the size of the opening. If the trash deposit is too small, items could get stuck and litter may begin to spill out. Trash receptacles should have openings large enough for many types of garbage disposal.

Another important consideration of trash receptacle design is the actual size and waste capacity of the bin. Depending on the popularity of the area, different size waste receptacles are needed. Typically, smaller receptacles are better suited for places that can be emptied often. Larger receptacles are great for areas that are more popular and cannot be emptied as frequently as needed. A good rule of thumb for receptacles of this size is anywhere from 30 to 50 gallons.

Use Colorful Trash Cans and Signage Options

Adding colorful trash cans to an outdoor area isn’t about aesthetics, it’s about litter prevention. Trash receptacles that blend into the environment are difficult to see and could result in someone deciding to leave their trash behind. Brightly colored trash cans stand out as a place where people can dispose of waste.

Signs are another great way to help point out the location of trash receptacles. Putting signs on trash receptacles or even nearby could help people better locate the direction of receptacles in your area. It’s a good reminder as to why it’s important not to litter and keep the community clean.

Get Recycle Receptacles to Promote Good Habits

If opportunities to recycle exist in your community, adding recycling receptacles can also help reduce the amount of trash left on the ground in your area. Having a variety of waste receptacles helps to evenly distribute the contents of your bins, thereby reducing excessive amounts of trash stuffed into overflowing receptacles.

The placement of recycling bins is key to motivating people to use them properly. Similar to trash receptacles, it’s important to ensure recycling bins are never too far apart and always in clusters. You don’t want to place a trash receptacle on one end of the street and a recycling bin on the other. Keeping them together will promote good habits and proper usage.

But why should people practice these good habits? What are the benefits of recycling? Well, for one, it reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills. Recycling also creates jobs, equating to 1.17 jobs per 1,000 tons of materials recycled according to the EPA.

That said, educating the public on why recycling is important can also help reduce the amount of littering in a community. Providing signs or brochures in a public park or courtyard could be a helpful starting point.

Empty Trash Receptacles Regularly

Ensure management is often checking the state of trash receptacles. An overflowing trash bin can lead to more litter, which could in turn encourage more littering behavior. According to an article from The Atlantic about the litter research of environmentalists, “the results ... demonstrate that people are sensitive to what they see as normal behavior, and they’ll change their behavior to adapt to what they see being done around them.” In other words, if an environment is heavily littered and poorly maintained, the more likely people will continue to perpetuate that cycle.

One way to encourage management staff to empty receptacles often is by purchasing receptacles with convenient swing doors for access to liners.

Look for Trash Receptacles with Cigarette Butt Disposals

One of the top most collected items in our ocean today are cigarette butts. With more than 4.5 trillion cigarettes discarded worldwide each year, cigarette butts are the most littered item on the planet. This means there is a huge need for trash receptacles to provide a way for people to dispose of cigarettes properly. Finding a trash receptacle that offers ash urn lids is a good solution to cigarette butt litter.

At UltraSite, we manufacture high-quality products for commercial grade outdoor recreation furnishings such as benches, picnic tables, trash receptacles and more. Get a quote from us today.

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