Roadside Litter In Iowa Reduced


Des Moines, IA – Keep Iowa Beautiful (KIB) continues to address the issues littering and illegal dumping in our state. KIB strongly believes that litter, like other visual negatives, is a symptom of a deeper problem in society–a lack of pride and respect.

“In three Statewide Roadside Litter Surveys being released, litter is less of an issue today than in 2002,” said Gerry Schnepf, Executive Director of KIB. “Nearly all Iowans, 96%, agree to some extent that it is important to maintain a clean environment.” The surveys were conducted in the same manner as they were in 2002 to determine if Iowans have a changed attitude towards litter and if there has been a reduction in litter.

KIB in collaboration with the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) commissioned an updated comprehensive research study in 2013/14 to assess the current roadside litter situation in Iowa. The objective was to gather current information to compare with 2001-2002 surveys assessing:
* Current attitudes and behaviors toward littering
* Physical makeup and extent of litter on Iowa’s roadways
* Fiscal impact of litter among public sector entities

The Roadside Litter Assessment survey results show considerable reduction in four categories in 12 years:
* Packaging reduced by 21%.
* Tobacco Products reduced by 44%.
* Other Plastics reduced by 33%
* Other Paper reduced by 58%.

Public Opinion Survey results show nearly all Iowans (96%) “agree” to some extent that it is important to maintain a clean environment.

* 52% say litter is a problem in their community (primarily in urban locations).
* Fast food containers/wrappers, tobacco products and paper continue to be a moderate/major problem along Iowa’s roadways.
* 53% of Iowans say that cans and bottles (glass or plastic) are a moderate/major problem on roadways.
* Iowans believe increasing the penalties for littering and increasing the enforcement of anti-litter laws could have a significant impact on reducing littering and illegal dumping.

The Fiscal Impact Survey of litter across Iowa in 2013/14 is similar to the estimated costs of clean-up in 2002 of over $17 million.

Recommendations from the survey results include:
1-Enforce the criminal penalties for litter violations. A percentage of the fines collected should be distributed back to the governmental unit (city or county) where the violation/citation occurred. The balance should go towards programs tailored to prevent littering and for developing additional programming for elementary schools.

2-Increase the litter penalty. The current Iowa penalty is not viewed as a deterrent. The study recommends increasing Iowa’s litter penalty from $70 to $250.

3-Enhance roadway adoption programs. Increase marketing efforts for Adopt-a-Highway programs. Create financial incentives/rewards for maintaining a clean environment. Develop partnerships with grocery stores, convenience stores and other community businesses.

4-Increase litter education in Iowa school districts. Continue emphasis on litter prevention, beautification or “Sense of Pride” education programs for elementary school children.

5-Increase public awareness on the fiscal impact and overall cost of littering. The cost of litter is substantial. $17 million was spent in 2012 on litter collection at Iowa’s public facilities including school districts, cities, counties and various state agencies. Estimates add another $17 million to litter costs when private sector facilities are included.

Increased litter prevention efforts by KIB include:
* The litter hotline (1-888-NOLITTR (665-4887) with the support of the Iowa Highway Patrol, the * Sheriffs/Deputies Association and the Police Chiefs Association.
* Education programs like “Teachers Going Green.
* Continued public awareness efforts in partnership with Keep America Beautiful.

These have aided and increased the sense of pride and a greater commitment to make Iowa the cleanest and most attractive state in the nation.

The executive summary of survey findings, implications and recommendations can be found at

About Chris Berg

Chris was born and raised in Webster City, IA. As a young kid, he would always be caught singing along to songs on the radio. He says he's good at karaoke but we think otherwise. ;) In his free time, he enjoys beginning new projects at home and hardly ever finishing them. Chris lives in Charles City with his wife Vicki and a daughter Brynlee.