rest area litter

We recently conducted the 1st Annual Massachusetts Litter Survey to gauge Massachusetts residents’ attitudes about litter and related issues. The main takeaways can be summarized as follows:

  • A strong majority of residents believe that litter is a serious problem in their local community and across the entire state
  • While many towns host litter cleanups, volunteers are the driving force behind these efforts in most communities
  • Most residents believe their local municipalities should be doing more to clean up litter
  • Most residents believe that businesses that sell products that often end up littered should share responsibility for preventing and cleaning up litter

The survey results point to a clear consensus that we need to work harder across the state to clean up litter and prevent it from happening in the first place. Below are additional insights from the 1st Annual Massachusetts Litter Survey:


Question 1: Litter is a serious problem in my community:

Strongly DisagreeDisagreeNeutralAgreeStrongly Agree

Here are some additional verbatim comments we received from this survey question:


“Especially single use plastic (bags, styrofoam, cups, blister packs, most on-the-go beverage containers) items of convenience. They are killing the Earth and oceans. We have to change the way we live.”

“It makes me nauseous.”

“I run a volunteer group that averages about 10-15 people that pick up roadside litter once a month. We are amazed at how much trash there is, and how fast it takes for more trash to be thrown after we’ve cleaned up an area. Sometimes, there is fresh litter the next day after our pickups.”


Question 2: Illegal dumping is a serious problem in my community:

Strongly DisagreeDisagreeNeutralAgreeStrongly Agree


Verbatim responses:

“People dump where there are no cameras to avoid paying a trash service fee. Most of the time, it’s tvs, computer equipment, oil, and hazardous materials in the woods near wetlands.”


Question 3: As compared to other New England states (New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut), do you believe the amount of litter along our major interstate highways is:

Considerably worse than other NE statesWorse than other NE statesAbout the sameA litter better than other NE statesConsiderably better than other NE states


Verbatim responses:

“How many tickets a year do the police give for littering along roads? !!!!”


Question 4: Does your town conduct any of the following events?

Litter cleanup dayCommunity service dayRecycling event, such as e-waste collectionhazardous waste collection dayAll of the aboveOther


Verbatim responses:

“It (our town government) does NOTHING in the way of litter !!! Even the public works department dismisses any involvement!”


Question 5: Who is primarily responsible for organizing these events? 

Municipal employeesVolunteer organizationsOther  


Question 6: Primary responsibility for cleaning up litter should fall on:

Percent who ranked municipal government as most responsible:Percent who ranked state government (Mass dept. of Transportation) as most responsible:Percent who ranked volunteers as most responsible:Percent who ranked businesses as most responsible:

Question 7: Businesses that sell products that are often littered should share responsibility for preventing and cleaning up litter:

Strongly disagreeDisagreeNeutralAgreeStrongly agree

Verbatim responses:

“I believe that convenience stores, on-the-go coffee shops, and fast food restaurants contribute enormously to the litter problem. They should be required to clean-up within a half-mile radius of their stores. It would freak them out to see how many of their products are strewn about.”

“Coffee shop, fast food, alcohol, tobacco and lottery ticket principals – please ante up!”

“They should be forced to TAKE IT BACK! Then we’d see how long they’d continue to produce such packaging trash!!”

“I have contacted (locally based coffee and donut franchise with locations throughout Massachusetts) many times regarding their wasteful practices of double cups. We find more (coffee) cups on the side of the road than almost everything else (besides liquor bottles and cigarette butts). They should sponsor clean up events and send workers out to help the communities that support their business. The response I got from my letters to managers throughout southeastern Mass was that they will start charging people a few cents more for double cup requests, they promote environmental responsibility and encourage their customers to recycle. I don’t see how they do that!”


Question 8: I would have a more favorable opinion of any business that provides financial or in-kind support to Keep Massachusetts Beautiful.

Strongly disagreeDisagreeNeutralAgreeStrongly Agree

In all, we received survey responses from 85 Massachusetts residents. None of the survey respondents indicated they were Massachusetts municipal employees and only one was a state employee. So if you work for the state or municipal government, we would very much like to hear your opinions and comments too. Please take the survey. And if you have any thoughts you would like to share here, please comment. Together, we can work toward solving the litter problem here in Massachusetts.