"There aren't many things that are universally cool, and it's cool not to litter.  I'd never do it."
                                                            ~ Mathew McConaughey


Cigarette butts remain the most littered item in the U.S. and across the globe.

Why is cigarette butt litter such a big deal?

Cigarette butts don’t disappear.   About 95% of cigarette filters are composed of cellulose acetate, a form of plastic which does not quickly degrade and can persist in the environment.

Filters are harmful to waterways and wildlife.   About 18% of litter, traveling primarily through storm water systems, ends up in local streams, rivers, and waterways. Cigarette litter can also pose a hazard to animals and marine life when they mistake filters for food.
~ Longwood Univ., VA

Litter, whether intentional or unintentional is a form of pollution resulting from improperly handled waste. Litter includes such things as cigarette butts, coffee cups, tires, plastic bags and food containers. Litter ends up on our sidewalks and roads, in our parks and on our private property. Research has proven that litter attracts more litter. By contrast, a clean community discourages littering and raises local living standards and quality of life.

Littering Is Illegal in Connecticut

LitterConnecticut has had an anti-litter law since at least 1897, when people who threw nails, tacks, scrap iron and certain other debris on highways or streets could be fined $20. In 1992, littering was made an infraction, which means littering is punishable by a fine, usually set by a Superior Court judge, of between $35 and $90. An infraction is not a crime. It is however, against the law to litter.

The Connecticut Anti-Litter Law CGS Sec. 22a-250: "No person shall throw, scatter, spill or place or cause to be blown, scattered, spilled, thrown or placed, or otherwise disposed of any litter upon any public property in this state or upon any private property in this state not owned by him, or in any waters of this state..." 

CGS Sec. 22a-248 defines "Litter" as "...any discarded, used or unconsumed substance or waste material, whether made of aluminum, glass, plastic, rubber, paper, or other natural or synthetic material, or any combination thereof, including, but not limited to, any bottle, jar or can, or any top, cap or detachable tab of any bottle, jar or can, any unlighted cigarette, cigar, match or any flaming or glowing material or any garbage, trash, refuse, debris, rubbish, grass clippings or other lawn or garden waste, newspaper, magazines, glass, metal, plastic or paper containers or other packaging or construction material which has not been deposited in a litter receptacle."

Releasing balloons is a form of litter that has huge impacts on our coastal wildlife.  CGS Sec. 26-25c restricts the release of ‘lighter-than-air’ balloons stating, “(a) No person, nonprofit organization, firm or corporation, including the state and its political subdivisions, shall knowingly release, organize the release of or intentionally cause to be released into the atmosphere within a twenty-four-hour period ten or more helium or other lighter-than-air gas balloons in the state. (b) Any violation of subsection (a) of this section shall be an infraction.”

Litter Clean-Up Resources

Beach Clean-ups in Connecticut (CT Fund for the Environment)

Source to Sea Cleanup (Connecticut River Watershed Council)

Connecticut Adopt a Highway Program (ConnDOT) - businesses and non-profit groups pick a section of state highway to keep clean - picking up litter along its roadsides

Great American Cleanup – national cleanup program


Litter Prevention Resources

Litter in America: 2009 National Litter Research Study (Keep America Beautiful)

Litter Prevention (Keep America Beautiful) – tools, tips and ways to help prevent litter in your local communityHow Long Before Litter Decays Chart

International Coastal Cleanup (Ocean Conservancy) - facts and information about marine litter worldwide.

The Connecticut Bottle Bill (CT DEEP) – originally designed to curb litter on CT roadways.

Litter and Recycling, CT Clean Marina Guidebook (CT DEEP)

Litter. It Costs You.  (GA) Georgia’s efforts to curb litter

Guide to Cigarette Litter Prevention  (Philip Morris USA) - highlights the problem of cigarette butt litter with campaigns against butt litter internationally

Floatable Debris (EPA Region 1) - learn about issues of floatable debris in New England and Long Island Sound

Marine Litter (United Nations Environment Programme) - highlights the problem of litter in our seas worldwide

Auntie Litter (Alabama) - site with children’s activities and promotional materials

Marine Debris Program (NOAA) – student/teacher educational materials on Marine Debris

Activities and Resources in Connecticut

Connecticut Affiliates, Keep America Beautiful

Anti Litter Ordinance See Chapter 128 (Torrington)

Littering Ordinance (Newtown)

Littering & Illegal Dumping Ordinance (Norwalk)


Plastic Bags – Bans, Fees and other Activities

About 380 billion plastic bags, sacks and wraps are used every year in the U.S.! While this is a huge number, very little (about 5%) of plastic bags in the municipal solid waste stream are actually recycled. Unfortunately, many of these bags end up as litter along our roadways and coast lines. Plastic bags do not biodegrade, they photodegrade, which means they slowly break down into smaller and smaller bits that can contaminate soil and waterways. Recently, plastic bag bans, taxes, fees or mandatory recycling laws have hit areas of the U.S., including Connecticut and the northeast, bringing this issue to the forefront of the environmental debate. (Source: earth911 )

Representative Town Meeting Approves Ban on Plastic Bags (Westport, CT) article from Westport NOW

Retail Checkout Bag Ordinance  (Westport, CT)

Plastic Bag Bans  Office of Legislative Research Report, Connecticut General Assembly

ICLEI (International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives) – Local Governments for Sustainability, articles on bag bans.

Plastic Bag Report - Links to plastic bag bans around the U.S.

Plastic Bag Fees (CT Office of Legislative Research Report)

New York State's Plastic Bag Reduction, Reuse, & Recycling Act Becomes Law (NY DEC))

Bags by the Numbers (Waste Management) – interesting factoids

Plastic Film Recycling – on-line resource for plastic bag & film recycling

At-Store Recycling Program: Plastic Carryout Bags (CIWMB) – CA Legislature passed AB 2449 requiring implementation of a statewide plastic bag recycling program, as well as the composition, use, recycling opportunities and disposal of plastic grocery and retail bags.

Illegal Dumping Resources

Help Put an End to Illegal Dumping  (CT DEEP)

Your Local Police Department: If the dumping is ongoing and/or you know who did the dumping, call the local police. If a vehicle is involved, get the license plate number and a description of the vehicle doing the dumping...vehicles can be seized!

Your Town/City Hall: If the dumping has already taken place, call your Town or City Hall to report the incident. Usually, the contact at the Town Hall is your local Health Department.

Connecticut State Police Message Center (860) 685-8190  Call them if you witness littering from a car on a state highway.  The call will be routed to the appropriate state police barracks.  If you have a license plate number, they may investigate.


Content Last Updated February 2020