Join The 'Litter-ati'! How Citizen Science Can Stop Litter in Kane County

Join The ‘Litter-ati’! How Citizen Science Can Stop Litter in Kane County

  • Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series of stories on litter in Kane County written by Kane County Recycling Coordinator Jennifer Jarland and Kane County Environmental & Water Resources Intern Claire Eaton, a sophomore at University of Illinois Springfield. Got a question or idea for a recycling tip? Contact Jarland at 630-208-3841 or

It is not uncommon to drive down a highway and see various food wrappers or drink cups littering the roadway. These are not only a sore sight, but also can contaminate ground water and take hundreds of years to disappear.

That same cup could be on a different city street next century if nothing is done.

So let’s do something! Let’s be the solution. It is up to all of us to be stewards of our environment in our own neighborhoods and (if you are ambitious) beyond.

Get Involved

There are many ways to get involved in your community to tackle the issue of litter, ranging from citizen science participation to adopting highways and trails. It is also important to recognize the role that you play in litter.

There are several ways you can join the growing community of litter hounds. Here are five:

  1. On your own. Just get out there and pick it up! Jennifer carries a spare bag with her to collect litter in when hiking preserve trails or biking. You can do the same in urban settings. A really cool ripple-effect of this is that if you set an example, others will follow.
  2. Make it fun! Log your litter collection on the Litterati This app helps you track what you found and where, and keeps a national tally of what brands and what items are most commonly found. Companies (like fast food chains) are then informed and hopefully motivated to do something when the litter in their radius is linked back to them.
  3. Hit the road. Programs such as Kane County’s Adopt-a-Highway allow for citizen engagement in cleanup efforts. The program has been established since 2013, and maintains over 100 miles of highway. Volunteer groups are able to participate by adopting a portion of a highway for a minimum of 2 years. The group is then responsible for litter collection in that area. All necessary equipment is provided, and a sign will be erected crediting your group or organization with maintaining the beauty of the roadway!
  4. Walk the talk. Walk the woods and leave it better than you found it. If trails are more your style, you can become a volunteer with the Kane County Forest Preserve District’s Adopt-A-Trail Adopt a section of the trail where an organization or you and a group of friends can be litter heroes! If you are interested, you can contact Robb Cleave at 630-762-2741 or email
  5. WikiHow has some great advice on how to get started, too.

Passive Littering

It can’t hurt to look at your own waste disposal habits and make sure you are not contributing unconsciously to the problem of litter.

Passive littering is an issue that individuals can easily address in their lives.

As pointed out by an Elgin reader, leaving garbage and recycling bins outside for extended time can lead to blow off from storms that spreads litter in your neighborhood.

Many cities advise against leaving bins out for extended periods of time, and the city of Elgin is one that has an ordinance against it.

Consider bringing in garbage and recycling bins, and making sure all trash and recyclables are stored safely until collection day.

Safety First

  1. Dress for the job. Wear long pants, long socks, sleeves, gloves and sturdy boots. If on roadways – wear high visibility vests.
  2. When collecting litter, please take proper precautions. Do not pick up items that could be a physical or chemical hazard, and always wear gloves. Also could use a litter picker.
  3. If collecting on the roadside, do not assume that cars will see you. Always face the traffic and move well out of the path of any oncoming vehicles.
  4. Check the weather report. And avoid storms.
  5. Collect litter in broad daylight. Not dusk or dawn.
  6. Take care of yourself. Use sunscreen, a hat, bug spray, water. Stay hydrated!
  7. Look out for poisonous weeds.
  8. Work in teams of at least two. And if in a group designate a leader to keep track of the details and people.

Litter is a global problem that can seem overwhelming, yet it can be addressed. As with all global things, one can make a positive impact by acting locally.

Join your neighbors in committing to cleaning up Kane County!

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