Keep Britain Tidy recently published the results of their Litter Composition Analysis, based on a survey of litter at 3,360 sites across 14 different local authority areas in England. Their main findings were that:

  1. Cigarette butts make up the vast majority of litter items (66%) when examining litter in terms of their numbers, but only 0.2% of overall litter volume. A very different picture emerges when looking at the volume of litter, where small plastic bottles and non-alcoholic cans together make up 43% of the volume of all litter, while only comprising 3% of the litter item count.
  2. The brand items that make up the greatest proportion of litter in terms of total count are large household names, with McDonald’s emerging most frequently, followed by Coca-Cola, and Wrigley’s Extra chewing gum packaging.
  3. Congruent with evidence from previous research, this survey identifies a correlation between deprivation and levels of litter. There were more than three times as many litter items found per site, on average, in the 10% most deprived areas as compared to the 10% most affluent areas (42.6 to 12.4), and the 20% most deprived areas contained seven times as many small non-alcoholic plastic bottles as compared to the 20% most affluent.
  4. The overall environmental quality of a site was clearly interrelated with levels of litter – sites with higher levels of graffiti, staining, and flyposting also had more litter present. However, this doesn’t extend to the natural local environmental quality (LEQ) factors such as recent leaf and blossom fall and detritus.  Overall, there are lower levels of litter in areas with more green space and trees, which also tend to be more affluent areas.
  5. A notable feature of the litter items that are most likely to be dropped as opposed to binned is, perhaps unsurprisingly, that they are smaller, more discrete items. These include cigarette stubs and chewing gum packaging, which as well as being consumed frequently on the go, have much less stigma attached to their being littered than more conspicuous items.

Keep Britian Tidy Litter Composition Analysis Report