Today, I collected trash from the ditch and shoulder of the road that runs by our house. I walk this route just about every day and the garbage was starting to bug me. Its not an obscene amount, but enough to notice.
In order to make the task fun, I decided to conduct an experiment.
I collected trash along 1.25 miles over the course of one hour, trying to get everything I could find in that time. I had two goals. First, make the neighborhood cleaner. Second, determine whether the nature of the trash items could be used to construct a demographic profile of the litterbug(s). While the collected trash came in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, I used only data on drink containers for my experiment. I charted each of the containers (n = 260) based on the branding (i.e., Coca Cola) or a logical category (drink cups). The results are shown in the chart below.
The runaway winner, at 28% of the total count, was Sparks Blackberry, a flavored malt beverage with a very high alcohol content (8.0%). Honestly, I'd not heard of this stuff until now. Sparks Blackberry is a very specific beverage choice. I suspect one could ID the person doing the littering by simply walking into local convenience stores and asking the clerks, "Who buys a Sparks Blackberry here every day?"
There cannot be 3 people in the entire County that do so.
Most surprising was the 8 large bottles of Jose Cuervo Especial found in such a short stretch of road.
Litterbug Personality Profiling Via Trash Categorization
Based on all of the trash I collected, I concluded that more than one person is responsible. However, based solely on the drink container data, it is highly probable that most of it can be pinned on relatively few people - probably 2 individuals.
Profile #1: I attribute all of the sweetened alcoholic drinks (Sparks, Twisted Tea, White Claw Hard Cider, Steel Reserve), which make up 42% of the total container count, to a single individual. The offender is likely a young, single male, probably in their 20s, and employed at least part time. He is not a homeowner, but certainly lives nearby. Regularly shops at convenience stores, regularly drives this route, and likely does it alone most of the time. Possibly involved in drug sales. Based on those factors, I would guess his vehicle is a late model semi-sporty car or an American-built SUV, probably with some body damage and high mileage worth less than $5000.
Profile #2: The tequila bottles and domestic beer cans appear to be from someone else with different tastes. I would attribute this trash to a somewhat older, single person employed in maintenance, at a factory, or a farm. Cuervo Espciale is a relatively expensive brand of tequila and the bottles were randomly distributed along the route. They were not in a pile, thus not tossed out by a car full of kids dumping the evidence after a party. The tequila bottles appear to have been purchased at different times, perhaps on weekends over a period of several months, based on the degree to which their paper labels had degraded. So, probably a large-bodied person that can hold their liquor with a steady job, but unlikely a homeowner. Lives nearby. Probably a male, but maybe not. Likely drives a truck or full sized SUV worth around $10,000.
A couple other interesting observations: I found only 1 microbrew beer can. The rest were domestic brands, mostly inexpensive, light beers. The fountain-style drink cups nearly all had the Pepsi logo.
Take home message: Pick up roadside trash in your neighborhood. You will learn something.
PS - I continue to collect trash along this route every day or two. I regularly fill two grocery-sized bags each time, mostly with aluminum cans.