Bitter Towards Litter

This topic submitted by Mary Carnes, Gene Droder, Kyle Rhinehart, Carolyn Richard, Shayna Fell ( ) on 12/10/98 .

Bitter Towards Litter

Gene Droder
Kyle Rhinehart
Shayna Fell
Carolyn Richard
Mary Carnes

Around the city of Oxford, we noticed large amounts of trash building up in certain areas, including the streets up-town, residential blocks, and sidewalks along the fraternity houses. We predicted with our hypothesis that the fraternity areas would have the most total litter of the three regions, and glass would weigh the most despite volume. To better understand what type of littering occurs, we collected trash in each of these places. Sub-dividing the collected litter into categories, we examined the resulting volumes and weights of different forms: glass, paper, aluminum, and plastic. We could then compare the various types of trash between the three regions and draw conclusions from the corresponding Oxford trash pick-up laws. By researching the frequency of specific trash pick-up and the number of trash receptacles along the road, we could determine methods of refining existing solutions to the litter problems. As a result, we hoped to develop interest in the litter control of Oxford as well as improve it.


Miami University is ranked first for its efforts of recycling when compared to other Ohio public universities (1). Because recycling has reduced the landfill fees, Miami is also proud to have saved its physical facilities department over one-hundred thousand dollars last year (2). These honors suggest that our campus and neighboring areas would have decent litter control; however, the litter control can always use more improvement.

Despite Miami’s valiant efforts to keep the campus and surrounding areas clean, a significant amount of trash is still visible. Our lab intended to reveal that the majority of Oxford’s litter is located in the fraternity areas and that the amount of litter in the other regions will also be significant. With the results, we hoped to determine methods in which the city of Oxford can even better improve upon litter control.

After speaking with a lady from the Oxford Utilities department about the dates and times garbage is collected in our designated areas, we had a better idea of why our experimental regions were so cluttered with litter. Assuming that the typical weekend parties provide most off-campus litter, we could use the trash pick-up days and number of receptacles to explain the trash problem. Garbage is not collected until Tuesday in both the residential and up-town blocks (with the exception of Walnut and Elm Streets of up-town which are picked up on Monday). Fraternity areas, like the block of Bishop, Withrow, Talawanda, and Church Streets, are not reached by the city utilities services until Thursday. Additionally, by city law, the trash is not to be picked up before 7:00 a.m. This research could have influenced on our results, since we picked up our trash on Sunday and Wednesday mornings (3).

Through this project and extra observations, we will make students aware of the surrounding litter and probable causes of the problem. We hoped to inspire young individuals to think of new ways to keep the garbage off of our land and in the proper trash receptacles.

Materials and Methods:

Because we could find the numerical weight and volume of the litter we collected, the following experimental design was statistically sound. Since our volume category best expressed how much of the ground was visually covered by trash, we could determine which type of litter appears to be the biggest problem for each area. Weight gave us another comparative factor that measured the true mass of the litter. Since we were primarily studying recyclable litter, we instructed the groups not to pick up any extra materials for consistent data. To ensure unbiased results, the class followed the exact procedure, using the same materials and locations, as our group. We are confident in the class’s results because we attended the cites with them and helped them to make accurate weight and volume measurements, which corresponded to ours. Proving the significance of consistency in our lab, we used Statview’s t-test to compare the groups data with the class’s data. The resulting p-values (listed in “Results and Analysis”) express the accuracy of our lab.


garbage bags (to hold the garbage), scale (to weigh the garbage), lab handouts (to record data)


The first section sampled was the block of Uptown Oxford encompassing Walnut, Elm, High, and Campus. The second represented an area near the fraternities and includes Bishop, Church, Withrow, and Talawanda. Both of these blocks were roughly four hundred yards in perimeter. To compensate the four hundred yards for the first two regions, the third sample area was a two hundred yard strip in front of residential houses on both sides of Chestnut. The class divided into three groups, their Student-Generated Lab Groups, and each was given one of the sections to sample.


We informed the groups which region they would be picking up trash on the seminar date (October 26) before the actual lab seminar (October 28). For the actual lab day (October 28), the class met at Peabody Hall to take the 9:02 a.m. Green Bus, which goes directly to their respective areas. Each group only needed forty-five to sixty minutes to pick up garbage, so we returned to a common meeting area at approximately 10:15 a.m. This meeting place was the corner of University and High for the Fraternity and Up-town groups, and the lab instructors waited with the scale and trash-bag volume data. The Residential group met on Chestnut with another Bitter Towards Litter member and another scale. Before properly disposing of our collected litter, we recorded the weight and volume of each type.


While each group was cleaning one of the three designated areas, each member of the group was assigned a specific category of trash, including paper, plastic, aluminum, and glass. Some groups had more than one person picking up a specific type of trash for efficiency. Certain extraordinary objects, for example a shoe, were not collected to ensure consistent data. Several restrictions applied to our garbage pick-up to prevent biased results. First, each group only sampled the area from just inside the yard to just inside the street. If trash was in the street and one could not reach it by standing on the curb, it was not picked up. Likewise, if trash was in the yard and one could not reach it by standing on the sidewalk, it was not picked up. Also, no cans were crushed or bottles broken because this alters their original volume from the ground state.

Once the group picked up garbage in their sample area, they returned to the meeting place with the trash. We weighed the garbage by designating a person to first stand on the scale to give their body weight. The same person then held the garbage and the new total weight was noted. To find the actual garbage weight, we subtracted the person’s weight from their weight with the garbage. The group recorded the volume of the garbage by observing how much of the trash bag is occupied and comparing this fractional number (one-half, etc.) to the total volume of the trash bag (which is given in “Results and Analysis”). Accuracy was difficult to determine in this part of the procedure, but a rough estimate would suffice for comparative factors. This information was recorded in the following data charts for our comparison purposes. All trash was turned into the Bitter Towards Litter group when finished for appropriate disposal.

Additional Note

Prior to the Student-Generated Lab date, the actual Bitter Towards Litter lab group ran the experiment on Sunday morning, October 4, 1998. Our results were included in the class’s data charts to provide a helpful example. We also intended to give the groups information with which to compare their data, as we picked up trash on a Sunday, and the experiment was held on a Wednesday. Using the results of the experiment and the information given in “Relevance,” we drew conclusions between our pick-up day variables and the city’s garbage pick-up days.

Results and Analysis:

Below is our data from both trials of the experiment. For the volumes, we observed how much of the black and clear bags were filled by the trash. The total volume of the black plastic trash bags is 14800 cubic inches, and the volume of the clear bags 3780 cubic inches (as taken from the box of the trash bags). By noting what fraction of the bags was taken up by garbage, we could multiply to find the approximate volume value. Weights are measured in pounds, and volumes are measured in cubic inches.


Data Table:
weight volume weight volume weight volume
GROUP: paperplasticaluminumglass .5 4231.0 945.5 945 3.0 1260 10.0 74002.0 1890.5 94521.0 3700 4.0 37009.0 148002.0 378010.0 3780
CLASS: paperplasticaluminumglass 1.0 945.5 423.5 423.25 212 3.0 18903.0 3780.5 9458.0 3700 4.0 28352.0 37802.0 18908.0 3700
P-VALUE .4085 .3187 .2429 .3001 .2665 .2669
Residential Weights:

Up-town Weights:

Fraternity Weights:

Residential Volumes:

Up-town Volumes:

Fraternity Volumes:

Total Weights:

Total Volumes:

Further statistical data has been included in the hard copy format.

Discussion and Conclusions:

Before picking up the garbage, we made several predictions concerning the results of our endeavor. We hypothesized that the Fraternity blocks would produce the most litter, and glass would be the most abundant in weight and volume. After speaking with Tracy at the Utilities Department and actually performing our experiment, we realized why we obtained the above results.

Tracy informed us that the garbage around some of the Up-town and Residential blocks are picked up on Tuesdays, with the exception of Walnut and Elm streets which are picked up on Monday. This situation may have misconstrued the data because we found that the Fraternity area contained the most garbage by volume, which will not be picked up until Thursday. Generally, we would assume that the Class would have found more trash accumulated at the Fraternity area on Wednesday, but the Group found a greater weight and volume of litter on Sunday.
Our hypothesis about glass being the heaviest of our trash was proven correct. Specifically in the Residential area, glass was the most abundant by weight and volume. We believe this result is due to the little amount of other trash that comparatively makes the glass seem more abundant.

We also assumed--as a side note--that aluminum would comprise the most trash volume, but our data proved us wrong. Although most students drink from cans (which are cheaper than bottles), aluminum constituted both the least weight and volume. An observation we made while picking up litter the fourth of October led us to the reason for this outcome. Leaving the Fraternity area, a group of men had a truck full of aluminum cans. We noted that recycling cans is a common practice and these regular aluminum collections upset our expectancies. Therefore, in the Fraternity area, plastic gave our highest figures. This data is probably due to the large number of plastic cups often used for parties, which provided the majority of our plastic.
Up-town, paper was the most abundant type of refuse by volume. Paper advertisements, newspapers, and food wrappers probably caused this amount of paper litter. With this type of litter, the weight plays a minor role (being so trivial), and the volume that covers the ground is most significant. Simply observing the Up-town streets reveals a problem with paper litter.

Using Statview with our data, we compared the Class’s results to the Group’s results. The t-test examines sets of data, so we omitted the categories of paper, plastic, aluminum, and glass and entered just the numbers. Our six compatible data sets were the Group’s lists of weights and volumes for Residential, Up-town, and Fraternity and the Class’s corresponding lists of weights and volumes for the three areas. For example, we compared the results from the Group’s litter weights (disregarding which type of litter) for Residential to the Class’s litter weights for Residential. As listed above in “Results and Analysis” data chart, this p-value equaled .4085. All of the p-values we found were greater than .05, which suggested that we accept the null hypothesis that states that the data sets are not different from each other. These results are significant in that the class collected similar data from the same field as the group. Note that other statistics are attached on the hard copy form only for further comparison.

Although we were unable to locate any similar experiments previously performed by other groups, we realize that litter is a broad problem addressed by the people of our campus and the world. Partying students who inconsiderately drop their trash onto the ground contribute daily to the problem at-large as seen in our data. However, while the group of men who picked up aluminum cans early that Sunday morning may have affected our data, they are advancing towards a helpful solution, recycling. As a group, “Bitter Towards Litter believes that awareness and respect of the litter problem are the first steps toward a cleaner environment. We only noted two public trash cans per block in both the Fraternity and Residential areas; an increase in trash receptacles could be a helpful contribution. On the Up-town block, a trash can for each corner did not suffice either. Our commitment to helping the litter problem involved writing a letter to Tracy at the Utilities Department, informing her of our findings and suggestions.
If anyone wishes to elaborate on the work of Bitter Towards Litter, we have suggestions for further investigations. First, the entire experiment could take place on campus for a comparison to the off-campus regions. Collecting trash early in the morning prevents discrepancies in data caused by the regular recyclers. Trials right before and after the city trash pick-up days would allow comparison between the two and help to decipher how much garbage trucks help the situation. Recycling systems and habits at Miami and Oxford could also be researched. Another idea is to collect information on littering fines, which could show the affects of current legislation on these problems.

After receiving our student generated lab information back from the groups in our class we tried to come up with a consensus of how they answered the questions to the lab. We then formulated an answer for the three groups as a whole.

1. Do you think the day you chose to pick up litter varies your results? If so, why?
Considering that garbage is picked up on Thursdays for Fraternities, the groups agreed that this affects the amount of litter there. By waiting four days after the weekend, garbage in yards can be scattered into the streets by people, rain, and wind. We also learned that groups thought they found little garbage in Residential areas because they picked up the trash right after a trash collection day.

2. Does the highest weight of garbage necessarily mean the highest volume? Cite specific examples.
The weight of the garbage is not a big factor in affecting volume, unless your items weigh the most and also take up the most volume. In our case however, the class believed that the lighter materials such as paper and plastic took up the most room in the garbage bags. Though much of the litter takes up a high volume of space, it doesn’t necessarily have the highest weight.

3. What factors increase the amount of litter in up-town, around fraternities, and in residential areas?
Factors such as advertisement and city functions can cause excess litter uptown. Parties and social drinking affect fraternities out doors and in doors. Litter from residential areas is created by parties as well as the apathy of people not cleaning up their yards.

4. What solution would you propose to solve the litter pollution problem in Oxford based on your results from this lab?
The groups came up with the reasoning that an increase in the amount of garbage cans available to the public in all three areas would help with the problem. Additionally, better planning in the city’s trash pick-up days, relating to social events, could better the situation.

Literature Cited:
1. “Miami Tops Itself and Others in Recycling.” News Releases. October 1997.
2. “MRFY’s Law not a Bad Thing for Miami Recycling.” Maimians in the Spotlight. 1998.
3. Tracy. Oxford City Utilities Department. (513)-524-5221. October 5, 1998.

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