If you’re like most Americans, you probably empty the trash in your car every time you fill up your gas tank at your local convenience store.


Seven in ten American drivers (70%) say that they use the trash can at the fueling island to dispose of their trash from their cars, according to the results of a national consumer study on attitudes related to trash.


Convenience and fueling retailers concur with consumers: 56% say that most trash in their trash cans at the fueling island is not generated from the store.


Both the consumer and retailer surveys were conducted by the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), the association that represents the $550 billion convenience store industry that is also responsible for 80% of the fuel purchased in the country. NACS conducted both surveys to gauge consumer and retailer perceptions about litter, trash and recycling leading up to Earth Day on April 22.


Consumers overwhelmingly say that store appearance is important when considering where to make a purchase: 84% of consumer fueling up say cleanliness of the store is an important factor when considering whether they go inside the store to make a purchase. Additionally, more than nine in ten (92%) say that the convenience store they visit the most often tends to be clean, compared to the 85% who say that convenience stores in general tend to be clean.


“Keep your store and yard clean of litter. Your customers will respect your cleanliness and your business will grow,” said Jeff Armbruster, with Armbruster Energy Stores (Grafton, Ohio).


Retailers report they spend more than $600 per store per month for recycling and trash collection programs, or about $1.3 billion industry-wide on an annual basis. 


The payoff is worth the expense, as convenience stores continue to grow their foodservice sales that climbed 12.9% to $49 billion in 2016. The convenience store industry is also working with Keep America Beautiful to provide guidance to its members on best practices for recycling and trash management.


“More than 160 million Americans visit convenience stores every day to address their immediate needs, whether to grab a quick snack, meal or drink or to refuel and clean out their cars. Effective trash and recycling programs area a critical part of how retailers serve on-the-go drivers, whether off the highway or in the neighborhood,” said Jeff Lenard, NACS Vice President of Strategic Industry Initiatives.


The NACS consumer survey was conducted online by Penn Schoen Berland (PSB); 1,104 U.S. adults who purchase fuel for a vehicle such as a car, truck or van at least once per month were surveyed April 4 – 7, 2017. The NACS retailer survey featured results from 83 retailer companies and was conducted April 10 – 19, 2017.