Roadside litter is a major problem in Washington. Our research shows that 75% of Washingtonians don’t litter, but the actions of those who do result in expensive cleanups, dangerous road conditions, loss of community pride and tourism, and big environmental impacts.
Every year, we dedicate more than $6 million to litter pickup programs statewide. Our partners at the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) also spend approximately $6 million annually on litter pickup and disposal. However, these efforts only skim the surface of the problem. We need to stop litter at the source. We are working with consultants, WSDOT, State Patrol (WSP), Washington Traffic Safety Commission, local governments, and other stakeholders to help change littering behaviors and prevent litter in the first place.
In 2021, we launched the We Keep WA Litter Free brand in English and Spanish (LitterFreeWA.org and PorUnWAImpecable.org). This brand is used across sub-campaigns focused on changing specific littering behaviors. We also created a Litter Prevention Partner Toolkit for local jurisdictions, non-profits, community groups, and others to promote litter prevention and amplify campaign messages.
Our campaigns include targeted statewide advertising on all platforms, signs and messaging on state highways, partnerships with big-box retail locations, work with local jurisdictions on outreach and special events, emphasis patrols and media events with the WSP and more.
Social marketing and behavior change
Our behavior-change campaigns use a social marketing framework. Social marketing is built on research showing that awareness and education alone rarely change behaviors. We invested in audience research to help us understand the barriers and motivators to helping people change their littering behavior. We also tested messages and creative concepts with our priority audiences. This research shaped our campaigns, messaging and distribution of behavior-change tools (such as cargo nets and vehicle litter bags).