Keep America Beautiful litter study ignores corporate blame for plastic pollution

May 19, 2021

Greenpeace responds to Keep America Beautiful report

Washington, DC – A new report from Keep America Beautiful — a nonprofit working alongside corporate partners like McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Dow, PepsiCo, Nestle, and Keurig Dr. Pepper on cleanup and beautification efforts — finds that litter along roadways has fallen 54 percent since 2009. While plastic litter has decreased overall, the proportion of plastic litter has increased. Plastic films, such as those used for candy or snack bags, represent the second and third most frequently found types of litter in America. Ninety percent of Americans view litter as a problem in their region. The report found that per capita litter from beer and soda was more than double in states that do not have container deposit laws, demonstrating the importance of policy approaches to address pollution.

Keep America Beautiful, launched in the 1950s, helped to coin the term “litterbugs” and conducted PSA campaigns criticizing people for pollution. As part of its latest report release, the group is urging people to pick up 152 pieces of litter to help make our country litter free until someone litters again.

In response to the study, Greenpeace USA Oceans Campaign Director John Hocevar said:

“Nearly everyone agrees litter is a problem, and hardly anyone admits to littering anymore. While littering might have decreased since 2009, companies’ reliance on single-use plastic has not and the damage continues to grow. The trash that we see in our neighborhoods and along our roadways tends to end up in our waterways. Plastic production could triple by 2050 if we do not take significant action to hold corporations accountable for the mess they create. Littering is a distraction from the large systemic changes we need to see from the world’s largest corporations and governments. While corporations continue to launch ad campaigns on individual responsibility for waste, their branded plastic packaging from decades ago is still polluting the earth.

“We will not be able to solve the plastic crisis by thinking of it as a litter problem. Until Keep America Beautiful’s corporate partners acknowledge that their reliance on single-use plastic and other types of throwaway packaging is the source of the problem, efforts to solve it will continue to fall short. The plastics that companies like McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestle utilize start polluting the second they are extracted from the earth as fossil fuels. These plastics hurt the communities living near production facilities; jeopardize our health through their harmful chemicals; and threaten our communities upon their eventual disposal, whether landfilled, burned, or tossed into our environment.”


Contact: Perry Wheeler, Greenpeace USA Senior Communications Specialist, P: 301-675-8766

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