Litter Index

The Litter Index, also called the Community Appearance Index, is a comprehensive assessment of the overall appearance of a community using indicators such as litter, illegal signage, graffiti, and more. It is a tool designed to gather data annually by surveying a random, statistical sample of a city or town. The annual results are then used to develop a local plan to determine the types of community improvement programs needed to address current conditions, to change attitudes and behaviors towards litter behavior, and to achieve long-term sustainable results. 

Each summer, Keep Charleston Beautiful volunteers set out on a day-long adventure to gauge the amount of litter in the City of Charleston. Assessing the presence of litter in your community is the first step in the litter prevention education process. The Litter Index is designed to measure progress over time, so typically the same locations are surveyed from year to year. Every five years, new survey locations in the community are randomly selected. 

To conduct the survey, the City of Charleston is divided into five geographical areas, and then broken down into council districts. Half mile to one mile segments of roadway are randomly selected within each area. Volunteers visit each survey location and provide a score for each location based on the amount of visible litter. Scores range from 1 (no litter) to 4 (extremely littered). The final index for each area is calculated by combining and then averaging the scores compiled by KCB volunteers. The Litter Index serves as an excellent barometer of the City of Charleston’s litter prevention efforts.

2020 Litter Index score geographical region
2020 litter index by city council district

The Litter Index was created by the Keep America Beautiful, Inc. “Litter Measurement Technical Committee.” After initial review and field-testing, Keep America Beautiful local and state affiliates have utilized it every year to assess changing conditions in the communities they serve.