Information about Littering

Why is Trash a Problem?



  • that ends up on the ground often times finds its way into the Potomac River or one of its tributaries such as the Anacostia or Shenandoah Rivers;
  • can clog public sewer systems and become entangled in creeks, creating a ‘damming effect’ which traps debris, wildlife, and prevents water flow;
  • negatively impacts community aesthetic and well-being;
  • interferes with public use and enjoyment of river and streamside parks;
  • can have significant negative chemical and biological impacts including: leaking and/or leaching of toxics from certain types of disposed items such as used oil quart containers, oil filters and car batteries;
  • can interfere with the establishment of emergent aquatic plants;
  • can be hazardous to wildlife through ingestion of or entanglement in floating debris;
  • costs regional jurisdictions millions of dollars each year to clean up, money that can be better spent on more worthy causes such as education, recycling efforts, et cetera.


Trash is a serious problem in the Potomac River Watershed, and its major tributaries. Trash travels from our streets into storm drains and waterways until it reaches the Potomac. While there is currently limited research or regional data that tracks the sources of regional trash, we speculate that the majority of this trash originates as refuse improperly or intentionally disposed of along roadsides and in public and private open spaces.