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Litter Campaign

UPDATE: Beginning in 2009 funding for the Litter and it will Hurt campaign was suspended due to transfer of litter tax monies to fund other state priorities. The suspension of the campaign will continue through at least 2015. The campaign material on these websites is for historical purposes. Campaign Background and Purpose

Litter hurts. Every year in Washington State, over 12 million pounds of "stuff" are tossed and blown onto interstate, state, and county roads. Another 6 million pounds are tossed in parks and recreation areas. Programs funded through Ecology spend over $4 million dollars each year picking up this litter. Litter creates an eyesore, harms wildlife and their habitats, and puts motorists at risk. Many of us (about 25 percent) would never consider littering. Some of us (about 25 percent) litter most of the time. Almost half of us litter occasionally, but can be persuaded to stop.

With the help of a team of consultants, Ecology developed a prevention strategy to help reduce intentional littering on roadways. It aims to reach a broad audience to raise and maintain awareness, and to reach people who cause most of the problem. The strategy relies heavily on the partnership and involvement of state agencies, local governments and (litter) tax-paying businesses. It includes media sponsorships and a system to measure campaign outcomes. The strategy includes a short-term plan to raise awareness and requires a long-term commitment for behavior change.

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Target Audiences

There are two major audiences for the campaign: those who litter and those who don’t. Target audiences for littering include the five major segments. These segments cause the majority of litter on roadways. The first four segments are motorists or passengers who toss cigarette butts, alcoholic beverage containers, food wrappers, or other beverage containers from their vehicles. The fifth segment consists of drivers of pickup trucks that don’t have properly secured loads and who don’t clean out the back of their pickup trucks before driving. Campaign messages also aim at those drivers and passengers who don’t litter.

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Campaign strategies support three separate objectives:
  • A short-term objective to create awareness that littering can lead to significant fines and that a toll-free number is available to report littering.
  • A long-term objective to make litterers believe their littering will be noticed and they could be caught.
  • A long-term objective to influence litterers to change their behaviors. The goal is to influence litterers to dispose of litter properly, cover and secure pickup truck loads, and clean out the back of trucks before driving.

To create awareness uses major media to spread the word. The messages are that the fines for littering are significant and that people can call a toll-free number to report littering. Media includes roadway signs and billboards, television and radio advertising, public relations activities, special events, and messages on materials such as litterbags and posters.

To make people believe that littering doesn't go unnoticed and that people do care about the litter problem, the campaign uses additional strategies. These strategies include:
  • Letters to litterers (based on litter hotline calls).
  • Litter emphasis patrols conducted by law enforcement officials.
  • Ongoing public relations featuring stories about the litter issue.
  • Window decals, signs and bumper stickers as frequent, constant reminders on the road.
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Ecology uses a baseline and follow-up surveys of Washington State residents to measure:
  1. Awareness of the “Litter and It Will Hurt” campaign slogan.
  2. Awareness of the stiff fines associated with littering.
  3. Awareness of the toll-free number to report littering.
In addition, Ecology periodically conducts litter surveys to measure changes in targeted categories of roadway litter.

The campaign tracks several additional measures including:
  • Reach and frequency data from media.
  • Sponsorship and in-kind contributions.
  • Press coverage.
  • Participation by other state agencies and local governments.