Litter

A 2009 study reported there were more than 50 billion pieces of litter on our nation’s roadways with 4.6 billion pieces larger than 4 inches in size.

We published a story from The Associated Press in Monday’s edition that reported the Illinois Department of Transportation spent $6.1 million last year to pick up litter.

That amount of funding could pay for 30 miles of road resurfacing or 40 maintenance trucks that could double as snowplows, IDOT says.

We thought there just can’t be that much littering going on. So, we did what everyone does when an answer is sought — we googled it.

Extensive research on litter seems to be few and far between. We did, though, find a landmark study funded by Keep America Beautiful dating back to 2009. It reported some numbers even more staggering than the $6.1 million price tag for litter here in Illinois.

The study reported there were more than 50 billion pieces of litter on our nation’s roadways with 4.6 billion pieces larger than 4 inches in size.

That is a lot of litter. Almost too much to fully comprehend really.

Tobacco products were the prevalent litter item, comprising more than 35 percent of all litter at that time.

And cleaning up that litter isn’t just expensive in Illinois.

The study found that litter cleanup costs more than $11.5 billion nationwide — every single year.

It also carries intangible costs. Presence of litter in a community decreases property values by 7 percent, the study found.

In our deep dive on Google, we also learned that Illinois ranks third in the nation in terms of most trash per capita.

It seems we have enough problems with trash so there’s no need to throw in another, especially since it’s one that is so easily prevented.

And though the research we reference is old, the situation clearly has not improved if we’re spending $6 million annually to clean it up.

So, like the endless signs say, please don’t litter.