Youâ€™ve seen it yourself. The shoulders of roads blanketed in litter. Discarded furniture in nearby woods. Plastic items on the beaches after a storm.
â€śWe have a huge litter problem in Massachusetts that seems to be getting worse,â€ť said Neil Rhein, executive director of Keep Massachusetts Beautiful, a nonprofit group based in Mansfield. â€śAdding to the problem is the fact that many of the materials that people litter do not decompose. So all those plastic bottles, nip bottles, Styrofoam coffee cups, and plastic bags will remain in place for years if they are not cleaned up.â€ť
A study by Keep America Beautiful from 2009 showed that approximately 85 percent of littering is done with â€śnotable intent.â€ť Which means that most people know they are littering but either donâ€™t understand that itâ€™s wrong or just donâ€™t care. And thatâ€™s a shame.
Wendy Northcross, CEO of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, said litter is also an economic problem. She pointed to research conducted by the Keep America Beautiful organization. In addition to the direct costs of litter, Keep America Beautiful also explored the indirect costs of litter, particularly to property values and housing prices.Unfortunately, the total quantity of litter and the amount of money spent cleaning it up are often underestimated.
Simply put, litter collection efforts are overwhelmed by the amount of litter on our roads and in our neighborhoods.
Jack Clarke, director of public policy and government relations for the Massachusetts Audubon Society, said butts, bags and balloons are a big problem along the coast.
Massachusetts will not begin to get a handle on our litter problem until it commits more resources to education, prevention, collection and enforcement.