Posts Tagged ‘litter prevention’

Evidence of Changing Behaviors with the Litter Campaign

April 9th, 2014

By Clara Elias, Program Manager, Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative

Litter is in our communities, parks, and waterways in large part because someone chooses to drop their trash on the ground instead of finding a trash can. Yes, some litter is there because people accidentally drop things, or because people forget to make sure the lids of their trash and recycling bins are covered, but by-in-large litter is a problem because of personal choices in how we dispose of trash. So it is not surprising that when people sit down to think about solutions for cleaning up our communities and waterways the discussion ultimately ends up talking about public education. But how effective is public education and how do we measure its impact?

Last year the Trash Initiative set out to answer this question by piloting a new method of measuring behavior change, by measuring the effectiveness of our Regional Litter Prevention Campaign. We launched the Litter Campaign in 2011 after several years of research and development, which included an in-depth study to understand how people feel about litter and what motivates them to do it (read the study here).  It has been used both by governments and by communities to educate and inspire people to change behavior and its reach is ever growing. In the last year we had many community groups, businesses, governments, and citizens join our efforts to spread our message.

Litter_Campaign_PilotEvaluation_4-1-14-1We are pretty confident that the Litter Campaign works, but we wanted more proof beyond anecdotal evidence, so we decided to directly observe pedestrians at four sites in Prince George’s County over the course of a year. During our study, we made notes on the behavior of nearly 5,000 pedestrians while we watched discretely from a parked car. The information we gathered showed a 45% reduction in the number of people littering in places where the Litter Campaign was used. What’s even more interesting is that 75% more people were putting their trash in trash cans! While these preliminary results need to be flushed out more fully, it certainly suggests a positive change in those communities away from littering and towards responsible waste disposal.

We will continue to collect information about the Litter Campaign to see if the trends hold true in other places and from year to year. You can read more about our study here [link to my summary] and if you are interested in using our Litter Campaign Materials, they are free to use and available online at While we will continue to spread the Litter Campaign throughout the region, we could also use your help. Please consider using our tools in your community and leave a note in the comments below about what kinds of outreach tools would be most useful for you.

Litter Takes No Holidays

January 22nd, 2014

By Albert Arevalo, Community Outreach Liaison

Litter In StreetBefore we rang in the New Year, I made my last 2013 visit to one of the communities I will be working in, Hechinger Mall. As the Community Outreach Liaison for the Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative, my mission is to learn how the level of litter is impacting the residents, and how our Litter Prevention Campaign can help restore the quality of life in the communities in the District of Colombia.

As I drove through the Hechinger Mall community, I noticed that the holiday season had an effect on trash collection. litterinstreet2Trash services had been altered, so bins, streets, and parks were over flowing with litter. Surprisingly it wasn’t the litter that caught my eye, but the random trash bags nailed on trees that peaked my interest. After some investigating I realized to my surprise that these bags were in several streets in NE DC.

These bags were hung by Ms. Dawson, a resident of the Carver Langston community who is taking the initiative to help combat the prevalent litter plaguing her community. I was fortunate enough to meet Ms. Dawson as I investigated the source of the hanging bags, and she explained how she arms herself with a small grocery bag and bright yellow dishwashing gloves weekly and takes to the streets to pick up as much trash as she can fit in her bag. As I admired her perseverance, we discussed the work AFF is wishing to accomplish in her community and she was ecstatic to hear about our Litter Prevention Campaign.

To further her efforts in cleaning up the community, I gave Ms. Dawson the Holiday Trash Kit, which included: litter prevention posters, stickers, a reusable tote bag, recycling and trash bags, and a new pair of gloves. Along with the kit, we have both gained a new partner in each other because right then and there we decided to combine forces, and change littering behavior in her community.

I have high hopes for 2014, and I look forward to meeting other community members who, like Ms. Dawson, are fighting the good fight and are ready to eliminate trash in their community.

Enter Video Contest for a Chance to Win $1,000

May 2nd, 2013

By Lina Scott, Communications Intern

Are You Ready to Be the Next Watershed Celebrity?

We can’t wait to see the submissions for our contest, but we also know it can be hard to plan a video. If you’re still looking for ideas, you may find it helpful to check out some PSAs from the past that have dealt with litter prevention.

PSAs, or public service announcements, have been used widely throughout the past century in both print and video format. They were heavily used during World War I and II to promote support for the war effort. Since then, they have been used to promote all kinds of messages that are considered beneficial for the public. They have played a key role in the modern environmental movement, especially in the many anti-litter campaigns.

Please enjoy this selection of PSAs from the past 50 years. They demonstrate the huge variety of styles and techniques that you can use in your own video, and they also give us a fun glimpse into different eras. How will your video represent 2013, and how do you think the messaging will change in the future?

Donald Duck’s “The Litterbug” – 1961
This short film isn’t a PSA, but I like it and think it’s worth seeing. It has lovely old animation and a very catchy tune, and ends with the singing animals typical of Disney. I like the framing of the Litterbug as a pest, though the producers’ opinion of DDT and other chemical pesticides is rather dated!

Susan Spotless – 1960s
This is a cute video that looks at litter from a very specific social perspective – that of the idealized mid-century American family. Preventing litter is about national pride and about maintaining the countryside for families’ recreational use, ideas that still resonate today, though within a different social context.

Crying Indian – 1971
This is one of the most famous litter prevention PSAs, and it was launched in 1971 on the second Earth Day. The dramatic music and the visual of the canoe moving through a pollution-coated city had a large impact in the 70s.

Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute – 1980s
This one seems a little strange to me, but that might be due to the use of a big owl costume, when today we would normally see special effects or animation. Nevertheless, it’s a reminder that there are ways to make a fun video while on a limited budget.

Don’t Mess with Texas – 2000s
The Don’t Mess with Texas campaign has been running since 1985, and has produced a number of PSAs. This one from 2000 features Texan star Matthew McConaughey. It received limited air time due to “violence” but I think it’s fun to see an environmental campaign incorporating some modern Hollywood flair.

More recently produced, this PSA’s use of a Texas Confederate Air Force bomber takes an even more aggressive stance against litter. It definitely succeeds in getting your attention!

Storm Water Sam – 2012
Lastly, here is our very own video about littering. An animated PSA, it shows that you can make a meaningful video without finding any actors.

Are you ready to get started? Hopefully these videos have given you some ideas, and shown how much variety there can be even when sharing the same kind of message.

Good luck!