Posts Tagged ‘Trash Free Potomac’

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.

Don’t Litter Feed the Can, Man!

October 1st, 2013

By Everette Bradford, Community Outreach Liaison

This Summer, the Alice Ferguson Foundation (AFF) had the opportunity to work with approximately 275 youth, ages 6-12, at five Summer Playground Camps through Maryland National Capitol Park and Planning Commission. Each camper completed two sessions, a cleanup of their summer playground, and learned about the litter issues both in their neighborhoods and the Potomac River Watershed. The campers learned about some of the successes and also some of the challenges in working to create a behavior change when they were given a visual tour of the Regional Litter Prevention Campaign and shown some of the work implemented in the Trash Free Communities and Trash Free Schools projects.

Over the course of two weeks, campers were able to identify trash hotspots and determine how long it would take certain pieces of litter to either decompose or biodegrade through use of AFF’s “Trash Timeline” lesson and activity. Both campers and staff showed great fascination especially in learning that a plastic bottle could take nearly 450 years to decompose in the natural environment. Participants were also tasked and given insight on how to reduce litter through the items they pack for their lunches. Outside of learning how to pack a “Trash Free Lunch”, campers were given insight on buying in bulk, which will reduce packaging along with saving their parents money.

LitterPosterAlthough some of the campers admitted that they themselves were litterers and also knew litterers, they pledged to change their ways and even spread what they learned to friends and family. Participants were deemed honorary members of the Alice Ferguson Foundation and tasked to create ways in which they could positively impact the litter issues in their homes, schools, and communities.

If you would like to take control, take care of the trash in your community and be an honorary member or the Alice Ferguson Foundation, try the following: