Sometimes Littering Is Acceptable—Understanding and Addressing Littering Perceptions in Natural Settings

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The detrimental impact of visitor-induced litter pollution on ecosystems, wildlife, and overall quality of life emphasizes the urgency of mitigating it. This study uniquely focuses on diverse visitors’ perceptions of littering behavior in open spaces, facilitating comprehensive assessment and targeted mitigation strategies. This study aimed to analyze attitudes, willingness to act, and responsibility perceptions, considering diverse demographics in Israel’s multicultural context. It sought insights into littering rationales, potential remedies, and the identification of relatively acceptable littering behaviors for focused attention. This profound comprehension is crucial for conserving ecologically sensitive open areas, necessitating optimized management for interface preservation. Leveraging insights from an online survey involving 401 recent open-space visitors, this research reveals a disparity between self-professed and actual littering practices. Intriguingly, 32% of participants who claimed never to litter described instances of doing so. Furthermore, disparities emerged between anti-litter attitudes, willingness to act, and individual accountability, which were influenced by demographic variables. While individuals from various demographic cohorts attested to littering behavior, young ultra-Orthodox Jews possessing solely a high school level of education exhibited a proclivity for increased littering. Perceptions predominantly attribute purposeful and recreational motives to littering, rather than substantial reasons. Participants conceive a diverse range of effective strategies to address the issue, highlighting its intricate and multifaceted nature. Consequently, this study advocates for a multifaceted approach combining enhanced enforcement, educational campaigns, informative initiatives, and infrastructural enhancements. By acknowledging the complexities of littering behavior and embracing multifarious interventions, policymakers can enhance the likelihood of successfully curbing this pervasive challenge.

Original languageEnglish
Article number13784
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number18
StatePublished - Sep 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 by the authors.


  • attitudes toward littering
  • littering behavior intention
  • littering justification
  • open spaces
  • public policy
  • system justification theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science (miscellaneous)
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Hardware and Architecture
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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