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Litter - It's in Your Hands

By kpaul in Culture
Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 10:35:53 AM EST
Tags: Focus On... (all tags)
Focus On...

As some of you may know from reading my comments here and there, I've recently moved into a 'lower class' neighborhood in my mid-sized, Midwest town in the United States. Granted, it's not lower-lower-class, but a lot of people have asked *why* I moved where I did. It's a lot different than places I've lived before, but I want to try to make a positive impact on the neighborhood.

One of the first things I'm trying to do is fix-up the exterior of the corner lot we're renting. We're living about 500 feet (150 meters) behind a public housing complex. The road that we share with the "projects" is the source of an experiment concerning litter, and I'd like thoughts on the litter problem in other parts on the planet.

My Experiment:

Every weekend since my wife and I moved in a little over a month ago, I've taken a plastic garbage bag (not one of those wimpy 13 gallon kitchen sizes) and walked down the street, picking up litter in the grassy area between the sidewalk and the road.

The first week I collected a bag and a half of trash. I figured the amount would drop off as the weeks went on - that the trash had been allowed to accumulate which is why there was so much of it. As the weeks wore on, though, the amount of trash thrown to the ground didn't really vary much from week to week. I'm still collecting around one full bag of discarded trash on the weekends.

As I sometimes tend to do, I've been thinking. My weekly trash pick-up has turned into an experiment in whether or not I can affect the amount of trash discarded on this one street. I've increased the 'area' I'm going to try to keep free of litter beyond my house and down to east entrance of the public housing complex.

As I sweated yesterday, picking up the refuse, I wondered if upon seeing me people driving by would stop next time they were going to toss something out the window. I wondered if my actions would have a long-lasting effect on people in the area.

The fast-food bags didn't bother me as much as the bottles of alcohol. There's so much glass in that strip of grass between the sidewalk and the street that if you collected it all and melted it down, you could probably create a bottle the size of a small Buick.

I also wondered what the people driving by thought when saw me. Was it, "There's that crazy white boy picking up trash again?" Or, "I wonder if he's on a work-release program, poor guy."

After much thought, I'm betting that whatever they thought as they passed by, it won't have an effect on their personal littering habits.

Why do People Litter?

Coming to the conclusion that it will be a hard (if not impossible) task to stop littering in this neighborhood, I started thinking about why people litter. Was it a class thing? Are the lower classes more apt to litter?

I'm tempted to think so, with the reasoning that they usually have 'bigger things' that are important to them, like surviving week to week, or maybe even day to day. And that because of that, it doesn't seem that big of a deal when they throw some trash out the window.

Or does it come down to the individual level - individuals responsible for their own actions? No matter what background they come from, they should still know that littering isn't the best of ideas and affects everyone in the neighborhood.

I did some Googling about why people litter and found a lot of people think it comes down to:

  • they feel no sense of ownership or responsibility to the property
  • they believe someone else will clean up after them
  • litter is already present
  • Knowing these reasons might help in cleaning up litter in your own neighborhood if it's a problem.

    Your Experience?

    Maybe litter is the smallest of problems on this planet at this stage of the timeline, but it also seems like it would be an easy one to change. What makes someone litter? Is it how they were brought up? Laziness? What are your thoughts?

    Also, what can be done about it? Wake County, North Carolina in the United States is offering a free "Litterbug Exterminator Kit" to those who want one. (Personally, though, I think it's kinda cheesy.) The National Center for Environmental Decision-Making Research has a Decision Maker's Guide to Controlling Litter that's very informative. Missouri has a lot of good statistical info on the average person who litters and what the biggest types of litter are.

    I'm really curious as to what other people in other parts of the planet have come across when it comes to littering. Anyone out there living in a country that has particularly harsh anti-littering laws? Are you involved in a local anti-littering initiative?

    And finally, do you litter? If so, why? If not, was it something your parents taught you at a young age, or something you started on your own?


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    o I do it. I don't care. 3%
    o I do it. I'm lazy. 0%
    o I do it sometimes. 10%
    o I've never intentionally littered. 57%
    o I don't litter as much as I used to. 10%
    o Cigratte butts, but nothing else. Promise. 15%
    o The least of our problems right now. 2%
    o other (see below) 0%

    Votes: 129
    Results | Other Polls

    Related Links
    o did
    o some
    o Googling
    o Litterbug Exterminator Kit
    o Decision Maker's Guide to Controlling Litter
    o statistica l info
    o Also by kpaul

    Display: Sort:
    Litter - It's in Your Hands | 166 comments (149 topical, 17 editorial, 0 hidden)
    Well... (4.00 / 3) (#1)
    by reklaw on Sat Jul 05, 2003 at 06:39:53 PM EST

    ... are there a decent number of bins around there, emptied regularly?

    The only reason I ever litter is if there just isn't anywhere to put the damn stuff.

    litter from cars (4.00 / 1) (#3)
    by kpaul on Sat Jul 05, 2003 at 07:06:47 PM EST

    seems to be one of the biggest problems...

    2014 Halloween Costumes
    [ Parent ]

    True (4.00 / 1) (#116)
    by Cro Magnon on Mon Jul 07, 2003 at 09:38:21 AM EST

    I hear people say "no place to put it", but in many areas, few people walk anyway. I admit I've been known to dump empty Coke bottles when I'm walking, but never when I'm driving. I just toss them in the back, out of my way until I get home.
    Information wants to be beer.
    [ Parent ]
    The only reason I ever litter... (5.00 / 3) (#16)
    by Elendur on Sat Jul 05, 2003 at 09:15:43 PM EST

    "The only reason I ever litter is if there just isn't anywhere to put the damn stuff."

    Laziness is a bad excuse.  If there isn't anywhere to put garbage, I carry it until I find a garbage bin.  There is no "only reason I ever litter" because I don't litter, ever.

    It's a good point though that a neighborhood needs to have a bunch of bins around.

    In my state (Washington) it is a law that you must have a trash bag in your car.  Of course I'm sure this really just means an extra fine when you are caught throwing something out your window, since I can't imagine how else it would be enforceable.

    [ Parent ]

    Hmph. (3.00 / 2) (#41)
    by reklaw on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 01:46:58 AM EST

    It's hardly laziness. I'm not going to carry my litter for miles like a gimp just because the council can't be bothered to empty the bins, or put any along the path -- they can pick it up off the floor instead. I suppose I would be far more hesitant to drop something potentially dangerous like glass, though.

    I find it hard to believe that you don't ever litter. I bet you can think of at least one time when you have, probably more. The trash bag in the car thing does sound like a good idea, though.
    [ Parent ]

    you're a gimp if you litter. (5.00 / 1) (#86)
    by tzanger on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 08:54:15 PM EST

    I'm not going to carry my litter for miles like a gimp just because the council can't be bothered to empty the bins, or put any along the path -- they can pick it up off the floor instead.

    That's so much bullshit -- you created the garbage, it's yours to dispose of correctly.  It's not like it's difficult to do.

    [ Parent ]

    It's not laziness? (4.50 / 2) (#94)
    by Joe9999 on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 09:39:51 PM EST

    You can't be bothered to put a little attention into planning ahead before using something that's going to create litter and you don't think that's lazy?

    [ Parent ]
    Not lazy (none / 0) (#115)
    by Cro Magnon on Mon Jul 07, 2003 at 09:34:44 AM EST

    That only applies if you're walking. I've been guilty of dumping empty Coke bottles in the ground rather than carry it for miles, but when I'm driving, I just toss the empties into my back seat until I get home, then put it in my trash. I see no reason to toss it out the window!
    Information wants to be beer.
    [ Parent ]
    The REAL cure for littering. (4.30 / 13) (#2)
    by Hide The Hamster on Sat Jul 05, 2003 at 06:49:10 PM EST

    Here's all you need to do:
  • Obtain brass knuckles, police slap or riot stick.
  • Obscure yourself at night
  • Beat the ever-loving shit out of the next piece of crap chucking his empty 40oz bottle to the lawn, screaming "DON'T LITTER" over and over again.

  • They'll get the clue after a couple days.

    Free spirits are a liability.

    August 8, 2004: "it certainly is" and I had engaged in a homosexual tryst.

    my fear would be (4.83 / 6) (#4)
    by kpaul on Sat Jul 05, 2003 at 07:08:37 PM EST

    the drug lords with their AK-47s and Glocks and what-not. I'd beat them once, then get the new siding on my house all shot up. Plus, alienate myself from the neighborhood. No, I don't think violence is the cure here. Already too much of it happening...

    2014 Halloween Costumes
    [ Parent ]

    I urge you to reconsider. (5.00 / 5) (#5)
    by Hide The Hamster on Sat Jul 05, 2003 at 07:11:53 PM EST

    Free spirits are a liability.

    August 8, 2004: "it certainly is" and I had engaged in a homosexual tryst.

    [ Parent ]
    I thought you were USian? (2.80 / 10) (#11)
    by This is Bill on Sat Jul 05, 2003 at 08:39:45 PM EST

    Isn't violence *always* the answer?

    *rimshot* Thank you folks, I'll be here all week!

    ---- It's a pornography store. I was buying teh pornography.
    [ Parent ]
    "I AM CAPTAIN PLANET, DEFENDER OF GAIA!" (5.00 / 18) (#8)
    by fae on Sat Jul 05, 2003 at 08:02:31 PM EST


    -- fae: but an atom in the great mass of humanity
    [ Parent ]
    ...don't forget the other planeteers ;) (5.00 / 4) (#28)
    by kpaul on Sat Jul 05, 2003 at 11:28:15 PM EST

    here and the Captain Planet Foundation which I never knew existed before tonight...

    2014 Halloween Costumes
    [ Parent ]

    Thanks for the laugh [n/t] (none / 0) (#34)
    by felixrayman on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 12:55:55 AM EST

    Call Donald Rumsfeld and tell him our sorry asses are ready to go home. Tell him to come spend a night in our building. - Pfc. Matthew C. O'Dell

    [ Parent ]
    My litter (3.66 / 3) (#6)
    by levesque on Sat Jul 05, 2003 at 07:18:32 PM EST

    Where I live, very low income, litter is a problem. After the snow melts it really is a mess, it takes about three months for the city or renters to pickup, then for the rest of the summer it's not too bad.

    I pick up others trash or just leave it for the city to pickup. Sometimes I litter responsibly, like something down a storm drain that will be skimmed off before the water returns in my taps.

    I feel people litter out of "who the fuck cares syndrome" brought on by a cultural "who the fuck cares about you" exasperated by social and family environments based on inter species behaviour mapped over human emotional bonds.

    Your post was fine... (5.00 / 3) (#7)
    by gilrain on Sat Jul 05, 2003 at 07:37:33 PM EST

    ...until you said that you "litter responsibly". The only responsible littering I can think of is littering right into a recycling bin or, failing that, a trash bin. Chucking stuff down a storm drain is not responsible.

    [ Parent ]
    Youre right (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by levesque on Sat Jul 05, 2003 at 08:30:38 PM EST

    Badly said. I should have said I'm guilty of throwing apple cores or an occasional cigarette butt down storm drains.

    [ Parent ]
    Ah. :) (5.00 / 2) (#26)
    by gilrain on Sat Jul 05, 2003 at 10:32:34 PM EST

    Yeah, I wouldn't call it litter if it's something that will decompose in a matter of days. I'm a bit more sketchy on the cigarette buts, though. ;p

    [ Parent ]
    it takes more (3.00 / 1) (#40)
    by Xcyther on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 01:45:48 AM EST

    than a couple of days for an apple to decompose.

    "Insydious" -- It's not as bad as you think

    [ Parent ]
    How long? (4.00 / 2) (#46)
    by Repton on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 02:21:58 AM EST

    How long does it take?

    They say that only an experienced wizard can do the tengu shuffle..
    [ Parent ]

    i dunno (5.00 / 1) (#60)
    by Xcyther on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 04:21:14 AM EST

    set an apple on your counter and see how long it takes to turn into dirt. All i know is that i can leave an apple out, and i can come back the next day and still eat it.

    "Insydious" -- It's not as bad as you think

    [ Parent ]
    Different circumstances (5.00 / 4) (#61)
    by Repton on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 04:34:31 AM EST

    There's a difference between an apple sitting on your kitchen counter and an apple core lying amongst the leaf litter in the bush.

    Maybe I will follow your advice, though --- I'm now at least half-inspired to go and eat an apple (when I get home) and then put the core outside somewhere where I can check it every day..

    They say that only an experienced wizard can do the tengu shuffle..
    [ Parent ]

    You think (5.00 / 1) (#96)
    by Xcyther on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 10:32:34 PM EST

    an apple would decompose faster if you leave it outside than if you put it on your counter? (given no animal comes and eats it)

    I suppose it would, considering there is more bacteria outside, and the amount of sun would be greater.

    "Insydious" -- It's not as bad as you think

    [ Parent ]

    we expect at least a diary entry... (5.00 / 2) (#97)
    by kpaul on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 10:45:09 PM EST

    ...if you try it. ;)

    2014 Halloween Costumes
    [ Parent ]

    I would do that (none / 0) (#106)
    by Xcyther on Mon Jul 07, 2003 at 07:08:34 AM EST

    But since i live in a dorm (in Alaska - lots of wildlife) i dont have many places outside i could sit an apple without it being disturbed. Sitting it inside my one room abode would probably stink it up after a bit.

    Mabye once i get an actual house.

    "Insydious" -- It's not as bad as you think

    [ Parent ]

    Stink depends on... (none / 0) (#132)
    by laotic on Wed Jul 09, 2003 at 03:32:07 AM EST

    ...whether you wrap it or not.

    From experience I know that if you leave an apple exposed to mould (blue mould), it doesn't stink.

    It's when you wrap it and it begins to rot or ferment that you get the sort of bacteria which produce stinky gasses.

    But my concern with leaving it indoors would be different - the fruit flies. (may not apply to your climate, though)

    Does anybody know where the beasts come from? They just develop out of thin apple rind or what? Is there some nanoreplication going on? /nt

    Sig? Sigh.
    [ Parent ]
    ..."apple exposed, and let it mould"... (none / 0) (#133)
    by laotic on Wed Jul 09, 2003 at 03:33:34 AM EST

    Sig? Sigh.
    [ Parent ]
    from eggs, of course! (none / 0) (#139)
    by fishling on Wed Jul 09, 2003 at 02:12:23 PM EST

    unless you believe in abiogenesis, fruit flies come from eggs that a female lays in fruit. fruit flies can also overwinter as mature pupae or even as adults in some cases.

    [ Parent ]
    You expanded my horizons. (none / 0) (#146)
    by laotic on Wed Jul 09, 2003 at 07:19:18 PM EST

    So apparently the female had to get to the fruit somehow?
    Is it possible that the eggs are in the fruit, say, from the harvesting all the time through supermarket, bowl-life in the room?

    Sig? Sigh.
    [ Parent ]
    not sure (none / 0) (#153)
    by fishling on Thu Jul 10, 2003 at 06:15:12 PM EST

    could be, i don't really know much on the subject either.  :-)  i would expect it to be more likely that an adult female found the fruit after you purchased it, especially if you live in a region where fruit flies are common.  but, if it is well below freezing in winter and you have fruit flies appearing in your house, then i would guess they were in the fruit all along.  i am also not clear on what sterilization and pesticide treatment that retail-sold fruit goes through.  i recommend some internet or library research.  information on fruit flies should be quite common since they were used often in research situations for genetics and breeding studies, IIRC.

    [ Parent ]
    Oh, I prefer to keep... (none / 0) (#161)
    by laotic on Sat Jul 12, 2003 at 02:05:04 PM EST

    ...fruit flies the little mystery my tired mind can turn to and ponder metaphysically when it is fed up by serious research :)

    Sig? Sigh.
    [ Parent ]
    Animals (5.00 / 1) (#123)
    by Happy Monkey on Mon Jul 07, 2003 at 12:22:27 PM EST

    That is a pretty unlikely "given". Even if a bird or small mammal doesn't find it, the ants certainly will.
    Length 17, Width 3
    [ Parent ]
    yeah, but (4.50 / 6) (#66)
    by speek on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 10:37:11 AM EST

    Do you consider it litter? If apple cores are litter, we'd best cut down all apple trees, no? And all those oak and ... ah damn it, every year those damn trees are littering everything with their fucking leaves - let's cut them all down...

    al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
    [ Parent ]

    Yes (4.00 / 1) (#107)
    by Xcyther on Mon Jul 07, 2003 at 07:10:02 AM EST

    If its in the steet, it is litter. If an apple tree let its apples down on my street, i would either clean them up, or chop it down.

    Apples that are out of their place are litter.

    "Insydious" -- It's not as bad as you think

    [ Parent ]

    Not if squirrells are present! [n/t] (3.00 / 1) (#79)
    by skim123 on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 04:00:14 PM EST

    Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
    PT Barnum

    [ Parent ]
    Cigarette Butts (4.00 / 2) (#68)
    by TheOnlyCoolTim on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 12:14:21 PM EST

    The paper and any tobacco disappear rather quickly but the filter will stick around for quite a while - not sure how long... You've probably seen them before but might not have recognized it as part of a cigarette. It will look sort of like a piece of cotton and will have expanded somewhat.

    "We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."
    [ Parent ]

    storm drains aren't trash bins! (5.00 / 5) (#38)
    by yami on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 01:07:20 AM EST

    I don't know how it is where you live, but in most places, storm drains and sewers use two completely different sets of pipes. Water from storm drains is generally not treated or filtered in any way before landing in the local river/stream/ocean. Here in Los Angeles, they're working on small-scale projects to clean up water in the storm drain system, but most trash dropped down storm drains still goes straight to the ocean.

    Unless you have specifically researched the issue in your area and know otherwise, littering in storm drains is not "responsible". You are merely crapping up a beach or riverbed far away from you, and making baby fish cry.

    blah blah lbha
    [ Parent ]

    Cockeyed (none / 0) (#157)
    by nklatt on Fri Jul 11, 2003 at 10:37:27 AM EST

    did a story about this

    [ Parent ]

    neighbors (5.00 / 8) (#10)
    by godix on Sat Jul 05, 2003 at 08:39:28 PM EST

    Enlist your neighbors. After a little while living there I'm sure you'll know which houses on your block are 'trouble' and which are quiet people in a bad neighborhood. Go to the quiet houses and explain what you're doing, ask if they'd like to help. The peer pressure from a group is greatly than from an individual. Someone might think about littering if they see a crowd of people picking it up as opposed to just that 'crazy white guy'.

    "I think you're right"
    - Rusty speaking about godix
    Hey, it's my damned
    It's an ownership issue (4.88 / 9) (#12)
    by pyramid termite on Sat Jul 05, 2003 at 08:49:28 PM EST

    If people don't feel they have a stake in their surroundings, if they're not in the habit of regarding them as their responsibility, then they're not going to care if they smash a beer bottle on the pavement. You can bet your ass some of the same people who trash the vacant lots and streets would get very angry if you keyed their car. But if it belongs to the landlord or the government or someone they don't know about or no one, they don't care. I used to live in a similar neighborhood in a similar town and the contrast between those who cared and those who didn't was obvious - even when they should have cared, when it was their own kids that might end up stepping or falling on the broken glass, a lot of people don't care. Back when I used to be a night person at a convenience store, I'd occaisionally get complaints about people having run over broken glass, even though we did pick the lot up once a night and would go out to pick up the glass right away if we knew about it. The people who got flats would be upset, but you know, once in awhile, it would be someone in the crowd they were with that broke that bottle anyway, and if you told them not to, then they'd get all angry about that.

    If you shit where you live, you'll have a shitty life and if you have a shitty life, you're more likely to shit where you live. How that cycle gets broken is beyond me.

    On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
    shit where others live (4.00 / 2) (#67)
    by speek on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 10:40:30 AM EST

    My experience is different. I live in an upper-middle class suburb, but I live on a main road. Every week I can find fast-food meal bags, beer bottles (often broken), paper, cigarettes, soda cans and the like in my driveway an on my lawn along the roadway. These are middle-class people throwing stuff out their window, and I don't know what they are thinking. I wonder how many of the people littering this guys projects actually live there, and how many were just passing through, thinking it's just another crappy city street and why should I care?

    al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
    [ Parent ]

    Get used to it (4.50 / 4) (#13)
    by MonkeyMan on Sat Jul 05, 2003 at 08:55:40 PM EST

    Littering is a cultural thing in the lower class. Not every body does it but enough people do that it is not thought about much.

    In my middle class neighborhood we used to have a group of section 8 housing facing our property across an alley. People there would hang out on their porches and regularly throw their empty 40oz bottles across a fence and into our yard. Just because they could. Not because they had any particular beef with us.

    Thankfully those properties were bought up, renovated, and removed from section 8.

    Some other points:

    I would think most of your litter comes from foot traffic, because people in projects mostly don't have cars.

    Your property may get spray painted. Either with gang symbols or just by kids who want to express themselves. Depending on your local government you may be required to remove such tagging (to discourage gangs), or you may get assistance in cleaning it up, or you might just have to give up on it. Your local police may be interested in catching taggers but they don't care about litterers.

    It makes sense to pick up trash on and around your property but you really can't make an issue of it.

    not true (5.00 / 3) (#15)
    by kpaul on Sat Jul 05, 2003 at 09:15:17 PM EST

    I would think most of your litter comes from foot traffic, because people in projects mostly don't have cars.

    This really isn't true. I see a *lot* of cars go by with booming systems - a lot of cars a lot better than the one I drive. Not everyone, but a lot.

    Your property may get spray painted. Either with gang symbols or just by kids who want to express themselves. Depending on your local government you may be required to remove such tagging (to discourage gangs), or you may get assistance in cleaning it up, or you might just have to give up on it. Your local police may be interested in catching taggers but they don't care about litterers.

    This isn't really a problem here. There's one gentleman who lives in the neighborhood (I've mentioned him before in a diary) that has cleaned it up a lot in the last 20 years.

    He owns a lot of houses on the street I now live on. Buying them up for around $5 grand and renovating them from the ground up. Really cool older (63?) black guy. Very wise.

    I'm thinking of starting something up with the people who run / manage the complex. They're very lax about even mowing the grass. When they do, they just roll over the bottles, shattering them, and creating an even bigger problem. I assume that they don't live around here so they don't care. Still...

    It makes sense to pick up trash on and around your property but you really can't make an issue of it.

    Thanks. I think I might be able to start a change, though. Might take some time, but it will be interesting. I like Godix's idea about getting the neighbors into helping...

    2014 Halloween Costumes
    [ Parent ]

    recycling pollutes (1.65 / 20) (#18)
    by tofubar on Sat Jul 05, 2003 at 09:42:08 PM EST

    but i would rather have reusable resources than worry about pollution. pollution won't kill us. by the way, you know space shuttle challenger crashed because it was running linux. your sloppy coding brought about those deaths.

    Alchol bottles (4.66 / 6) (#19)
    by auraslip on Sat Jul 05, 2003 at 09:44:11 PM EST

    It's because they are illegal for the youth, and illegal for people to drive with open containers.
    To get out of a car and throw a beer can away (or even just throw one away if your under age) could get you in legal trouble.
    The same applys to any other controlled substance.
    Haven't come across any dime baggies yet, but... (5.00 / 3) (#20)
    by kpaul on Sat Jul 05, 2003 at 09:57:11 PM EST

    I did find a perscription bottle yesterday...

    2014 Halloween Costumes
    [ Parent ]

    Down the Baja Highway (4.16 / 6) (#21)
    by MichaelCrawford on Sat Jul 05, 2003 at 10:08:04 PM EST

    Baja California in Mexico is mostly a desert, with some of the most starkly beautiful landscape anywhere in the world, and some species that are found nowhere else.

    I drove about halfway down the peninsula on the highway once, and though I found the desert lovely, I was shocked at all the trash. Almost all the way down the desert to either side is littered with bits of scraps. Lots of it, as it must have been getting thrown there for decades.

    Also, if a car ever wrecks on the highway, they just drag it off the side of the highway and abandon it, to rust away over the years.

    I guess one benefit of that is to serve as a warning.


    Live your fucking life. Sue someone on the Internet. Write a fucking music player. Like the great man Michael David Crawford has shown us all: Hard work, a strong will to stalk, and a few fries short of a happy meal goes a long way. -- bride of spidy

    America's roadways. (4.33 / 3) (#22)
    by kpaul on Sat Jul 05, 2003 at 10:15:35 PM EST

    I've hitch-hiked once in my life (long story) in the Midwest. I found out why they called it hitch-hiking as there is a lot of walking in between rides. One thing I noticed was that I couldn't take more than one or two steps at the most without seeing a cigarette butt alone - not to mention other types of litter.

    I have to admit that I'm guilty of this too, although I am trying to cure the habit (both of smoking cigarettes and tossing them out the window). I'm getting better on the latter one, although I find myself unconsciously doing it every now and then.

    2014 Halloween Costumes
    [ Parent ]

    cig butt littering is annoying (5.00 / 1) (#140)
    by fishling on Wed Jul 09, 2003 at 02:19:13 PM EST

    i always get annoyed when i see those butts being tossed by bus shelters or from car windows.  in a car, can't it just be ground out in the ashtray?  i can see why it happens (if i smoked, i don't think i'd want to place something that was formerly on fire anywhere on my person, not to mention the ash problem).  but it would be nice if they made cig packs or cases that had a place to safely hold/dispose of old butts so that you could just toss/empty the whole thing at once.  :-\

    anyhow, good for you for trying to stop the littering.  :)

    [ Parent ]

    pocket ashtrays (none / 0) (#150)
    by kpaul on Wed Jul 09, 2003 at 10:38:33 PM EST

    i guess these were really big items years ago. a slim aluminum thing that you could keep your butts in. i had one that an english teacher had given me - he'd picked it up at a yard sale, i think.

    i'm not sure if they make them anymore. in any case, i don't see anyone using them anymore. would be interesting to see in what year their sale and use started to decline...

    2014 Halloween Costumes
    [ Parent ]

    did they ever really catch on? (5.00 / 1) (#154)
    by fishling on Thu Jul 10, 2003 at 06:20:03 PM EST

    i would be surprised if they did.  too many steps (plus an extra purchase) for most people to bother, i would guess.  i think a more workable solution would be to have a way just to store the butts (mainly filters) right in the pack when used.  as others have pointed out, it is mainly the filter which is the problem and does not decompose well.  so, why not have it so that the filter can be easily extracted/torn off from the ash/hot remnants so that it could be placed back in the normal retail paper case?  making this feasible and enforcing littering on butts would probably change people's habits.

    [ Parent ]
    give 'em away? (none / 0) (#155)
    by kpaul on Thu Jul 10, 2003 at 07:06:29 PM EST

    not sure if people would use them even if they got them free, though.

    i do like your idea about building it into the packaging.

    2014 Halloween Costumes
    [ Parent ]

    Not enough Trash Recepticles or Pickup (4.50 / 4) (#24)
    by HidingMyName on Sat Jul 05, 2003 at 10:26:49 PM EST

    I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that part of the stimulus for lowerclass and 3rd world countries to litter is not just cultural but motivated also by government not making it a priority. When I visited Soweto in South Africa, (back in 91), some of the locals complained about a shortage of public trash cans and unreliable/expensive trash pickup, which encouraged people to dump trash on public areas or in vacant lots. In Mexico, it seems like abandoned cars, fallen lamp posts, and debris are never removed from the roads by authorities (except in good neigbhorhoods). Perhaps the governments have other things to worry about, but these sorts of things lead to a negative feedback cycle.

    There's a point there (4.00 / 1) (#27)
    by pyramid termite on Sat Jul 05, 2003 at 10:45:32 PM EST

    My old hometown doesn't have the landfills that it used to have and the one that it does "have" is actually 15 miles away in the sticks - quite inconvenient and expensive - a car load of trash will cost you something like 15 or 20 bucks to unload. The garbage contractor also charges for an excess amount of trash, and so, people take their shit down to a secluded spot by the river, in the forest, and dump it. Big fine if you get caught, of course, but I guess not many do.

    On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
    [ Parent ]
    Quit making escuses. (1.00 / 2) (#76)
    by mp1978 on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 01:59:49 PM EST

    Why do we need the government around just to have clean areas? The government is not the answer for everything, stop using it as a crutch.

    I wish people would stop looking for excuses. The answer is right in front of you. People are stupid and lazy, and every year they get more ignorant, and lazier.

    Maybe it'll make you feel better, if you keep blaming other people for problems, but that'll just make you look ignorant and lazy too.

    Why do people litter? Because they are stupid and lazy. So don't make excuses for these people, or your just as bad as them.

    [ Parent ]

    No (3.83 / 6) (#32)
    by crowbraid on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 12:27:36 AM EST

    I don't litter. I don't like people who do, either. Few things are as pleasing to me as the sight of scenery unbroken by any sort of man-made shit (litter, houses, cars, roads. +1 to section.


    Education, bad governance, packaging. (4.00 / 3) (#37)
    by Tezcatlipoca on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 01:05:11 AM EST

    Littering is unhygienic, attracts vermin. Uneducated people (i.e. poor people) lack the educational awarness to realize this. Do not say it is obvious. It is not, for millenia most civilization came with the mosy appaling unhygenic practices. It is not a matter of common sense. it is a clear matter of educational policy.

    Now, once you are educated, you need that your goverment plays its part. In Mexico we have around 7 or 8 years of education in average, during which I assure you we are thought about the negative aspects of litering. Nevertheless it is almost impossible to find trash cans and the few ones available are not emptied on a regular basis.

    Packaging, specially on developped countries, is wasteful. Why goverments don't forbid disposable containers for food and drink stuff? In Germany you pay for your bottles and the plastic bags in the supermarkets, and guess what, you don't see them all around the place even on deprived areas of big cities. In Mexico, when you go to the market you use at most one or two bags for all your shopping, those bags are not disposable (tradition and cosatum). In the UK they throw bags, bottles and packaging at you like if there is no tomorrow and not unsuprisingly, there are parts of the UK that are a sorry espectacle.

    Might is right
    Freedom? Which freedom?

    Better packaging = less litter (4.00 / 2) (#80)
    by skunk on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 05:47:22 PM EST

    Packaging, specially on developped countries, is wasteful. Why goverments don't forbid disposable containers for food and drink stuff? In Germany you pay for your bottles and the plastic bags in the supermarkets, and guess what, you don't see them all around the place even on deprived areas of big cities.

    Ultimately, I think the real answer is along those lines. Make bottles/cans/etc. reusable, indestructible, and expensive (in that purchasing a product requires a hefty deposit, which you then get back on returning the container), and anything else in the way of non-reusable packaging (e.g. candy bar wrappers) easily biodegradable.

    In my fantasy world, two-liter bottles of Coke are glass with a shock-absorbant plastic frame and a machined stainless-steel cap. You'd pay $11 for one filled, and get $10 back when you return the bottle (dirty but intact). I would also bring back the old-fashioned Coke bottles (though in a design that other labels could use as well), and put a commensurate $2-5 deposit on those.

    [ Parent ]
    Affordability. (4.00 / 1) (#98)
    by Noodle on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 10:45:31 PM EST

    Not everybody can afford to part with eleven dollars in return for a bottle of coke, even if they can get some of it back.

    {The Nefarious Noodle}
    [ Parent ]

    more explanation? (none / 0) (#141)
    by fishling on Wed Jul 09, 2003 at 02:26:04 PM EST

    i don't understand how paying $11 and getting $10 back (a net expense of $1) affects the affordability.  it might stop you from consuming your first coke for 11 days while you save up the money, but after that, you are fine for 1/day at $1/day (if you are proactive at returning the bottle).

    of course, for such a scheme to be workable, i think that it would have to be far more convenient to return the old bottles (such as being able to return them to any place where you can buy new ones).  otherwise, the expense does become a very valid issue...you can't just keep a few months worth of bottles around.

    i guess a valid problem is then you have a whole bunch of cheap, easily stealable, concealable, and untraceable bottles that are basically worth $10 to whomever carries it.  you might even see theives breaking into houses/garages to steal 20 or so bottles to make a quick couple hundred bucks.

    but, maybe this just means that $10 is a bit much, but something more like $1 or $2 would be more balanced and workable.

    [ Parent ]

    A real version of this (none / 0) (#143)
    by janra on Wed Jul 09, 2003 at 04:44:04 PM EST

    Three years ago, I bought a 1.8 litre water bottle, which had IIRC a $1 deposit on it. I never returned it. Instead, I kept it, and refilled it with my own tap water, lemonade, whatever (I'm not a big fan of buying bottled water - the only reason I buy it at all is for the bottle.)

    It's made of very thick, sturdy (as in, if I squeeze it hard enough it'll bend inward a bit) plastic and has a hard plastic base. As long as I don't put sugary drinks in it, I'll be able to keep it indefinitely. It's actually my second one; the first one only lasted about 6 months because of the sugary drinks == unpleasant growing things issue.

    Discuss the art and craft of writing
    That's the problem with world domination... Nobody is willing to wait for it anymore, work slowly towards it, drink more and enjoy the ride more.
    [ Parent ]
    UK? (4.00 / 1) (#103)
    by dammitallgoodnamesgone on Mon Jul 07, 2003 at 03:06:08 AM EST

    In the UK they throw bags, bottles and packaging at you like if there is no tomorrow and not unsuprisingly, there are parts of the UK that are a sorry espectacle.
    If you're refering to London, then part of the problem is that most of the litter bins in London were removed about 10 years ago, as the IRA kept on blowing them up. In the same way, the Underground has lots of signs (and PAs) telling you to keep your bags with you at all times, else they'll be blown up. So, yeah, it's the IRAs fault London has a litter problem.

    [ Parent ]
    My neighbors are notorious litters (4.33 / 6) (#39)
    by Daemin on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 01:36:41 AM EST

    I live in a 3 family house in a relativly poor area. My two roomates and i occupy the top (smallest) floor. The first floor is occupied by a section 8 family, and at least 10 people live there.

    One of my roomates lived in the apartment they now occupied before moving upstairs, so over the last 4 years ive been able to watch as the condition of the house deteriorated.

    The amount of damage these people have done to the house is simply astounding.

    1. The wood covereing the dead bolt on the basement door is simply gone, leaving the locking mecanism exposed.
    2. My back yard, once covered with a nice layer of grass, is now a dirt lot in which nothing will grow.
    3. I came home one day to find my mail box crushed flat on the wall (i still dont get this one..)
    4. While on mailboxs... I couldnt even list all the different types of garbage ive found stuffed in mine.
    5. The window in the back hallway has no glass in it anymore.
    6. The garage used to have a door.
    7. The garage wasnt always filled with random refuse.
    8. The back hallway used to have tile on the floor. Now its just bare wood.
    9. A pair of jeans was left laying in a heap in the front hall for at least 4 months before vanishing as mysteriously as it appeared.
    10. My front and back porches look like a party as just had at them... ciggerete butts, bottles, miscelaneous clothing, etc. show up in great profusion, and magicaly reappear within hours of the landlords (very infrequent) clean-up stops.
    11. Ive found letters addressed to me, torn in half, and left on the front lawn.
    12. Not long ago, i came home from a weekend away (i spend practicaly every weekend away) to find a nice new fence seperating my backyard from the one next to it. Posted very high over the fence, and facing into my yard, is a large sign stating, in esscene, to stay the fuck out of their yard or they are calling the police.
    Now, i can understand people not feeling a connection to a property etc. etc. But this is the place they are living for god sake! Its not like they are dirtying an abandoned lot... THey are fucking up their own home. I can only assume that they must enjoy living in filth, since they go out of their way to create it.

    different approach (2.40 / 5) (#43)
    by bankind on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 02:08:38 AM EST

    In Beijing, the common practice is for a herd of goats to come through and eat all the garbage. In Hanoi, it was always migrant workers or the lowest income workers picking up garbage. But the practice was always to throw garbage in the street so the goats or the migrants could take care of it. Most people from the West have a problem with this, but with their roads are built for foot traffic (particularly in Hanoi) it is the only option.

    My opinion ha always been fuck it, litter everywhere. I generally don't in very isolated natural spots, but in cities, I don't give a damn. Eventually the municipal government will hire some bums to clean the shit up, plus it deters gentrification. Anyway, mostly its all the minority areas that are dumps, so fuck it if they want to live in a shitty neighborhood (like where I live now NW-DC).

    But in socialist east Asia, I saw a way to provide jobs to poor educated low-income families.

    Now they also have huge mounds of garbage, so throwing that bottle of Bia Hanoi or Yanjing Pijiu was always fun. Best of all are the open sewage canals in Beijing. That murky sound of an empty 22-ounce bottle of beer splashing into fresh feces always gave me a good smile.

    "Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time -- but we've given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics." -Krugman

    Mailbox litterers (4.00 / 2) (#44)
    by kphrak on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 02:11:35 AM EST

    The kind of litterers I hate most are those who somehow have come to the conclusion that mailboxes are actually trash bins. I have a mailbox with a lock on it that's out on the street. Once in a while, I find the wrappings from some asshole's burger, complete with ketchup and the "special sauce", stuffed into it along with my mail. Thanks, buddy. Having all the nastiness associated with fast food spread on my letters just made my day.

    I think there are a few impulses acting together on these sorts of people. Clearly, the first thing is that they have something dirty in their hands and want to make it someone else's problem. However, they're too lazy to find a trashcan, even though the nearest one is across the street. Ah, but a receptacle exists. The trash is neatly out of the way until the owner finds it. And of course, some people would actively choose the mailbox over the trash can just in order to cause trouble. I don't know if this is a Portland-only problem, or if others run into this, but it seems to happen frequently around here.

    Describe yourself in your sig!
    American computer programmer, living in Portland, OR.

    Solution: (5.00 / 1) (#47)
    by reklaw on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 02:34:28 AM EST

    Put a little slot for letters in the door instead.
    [ Parent ]
    mail-boxes (5.00 / 1) (#50)
    by kpaul on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 02:47:42 AM EST

    they're forcing people in some neighborhoods here to go to curbside only mail delivery...

    2014 Halloween Costumes
    [ Parent ]

    Uh... (4.00 / 2) (#52)
    by reklaw on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 02:57:28 AM EST

    why? Can the postmen (or mailmen, whatever) just not be bothered to walk to people's doors any more?
    [ Parent ]
    i think it's a budget/money issue... (5.00 / 1) (#54)
    by kpaul on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 03:14:28 AM EST

    if they don't have to go to the door, a single person can cover a lot more ground in the same amount of time. it's just certain areas, though, i think.

    i heard about it from someone at work a few months ago, but i never looked into the specifics because it was already on the street where i lived.

    on a side note, there are some areas where the newspaper won't deliver to the door anymore...

    2014 Halloween Costumes
    [ Parent ]

    Or put a small... (none / 0) (#134)
    by laotic on Wed Jul 09, 2003 at 03:46:36 AM EST

    thrash can next to your mailbox - that way you could throw away junk mail as well and anyone feeling inclined to dispose of their rubbish would no longer have a pretense of the kind "sorry, I couldn't see a vertical thrash can nearby, so I used this horizontal one"

    Sig? Sigh.
    [ Parent ]
    Singapore... (4.80 / 5) (#45)
    by Richard on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 02:17:05 AM EST

    I live in Singapore. The laws here against littering are nothing short of harsh.

    a) Litter, and you get smacked with a fine of ~US$120 - ~US$600 (S$200 - S$1000). The litter might be anything, from cigarette butts to tissue paper to drink cans. For 2nd and subsequent offences, you get slapped with a fine AND a corrective work order (CWO).

    What is a CWO?

    It's essentially community service which makes you pick up litter in a certain area. The slight hitch is that you're made to wear this neon green vest which spells out to the world that you're being punished for littering. And to add insult to injury, you get the local reporters taking photos of you at "work" and having them published. Not the best publicity for yourself, I assure you.

    b) Chewing gum has been banned. I'm sure you guys know of that. Bringing it in for personal consumption is fine. Just not in large quantities. (How much this quantity is, escapes me.) Two reasons:
    i) They could jam the subway if placed at the sensors.
    ii) It's a nightmare cleaning it off the pavements, benches, any surface, essentially.

    c) Spitting carries a fine of ~US600 (S$1000). After the recent SARS scare, this is being enforced very strictly.

    d) I know this isn't part of littering, but I assume it's a problem on your side as well. Vandalism is strongly frowned upon. In that Michael Fay incident, he was caned and fined and jailed. Which, I assure you, is the normal punishment meted out.

    Yeah, we (USA) have them too... (5.00 / 3) (#73)
    by gilrain on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 01:12:36 PM EST

    Unfortunately, they never seem to be enforced. The highway signs where I live all say it's a $500 fine for littering. I have never in my life heard of someone getting fined for it, though.

    [ Parent ]
    my neighbor said (5.00 / 2) (#90)
    by kpaul on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 09:02:07 PM EST

    today when we were talking about it that Tennesee was really bad, that they actually enforced it. but then again, he said, they'll pull you over for anything just to check you out down south...

    2014 Halloween Costumes
    [ Parent ]

    Tennessee litter enforcement (none / 0) (#158)
    by ibbie on Fri Jul 11, 2003 at 10:56:40 AM EST

    today when we were talking about it that Tennesee was really bad, that they actually enforced it. but then again, he said, they'll pull you over for anything just to check you out down south...

    This, of course, depends entirely upon the county that you're in. But in general, that is correct on both counts.

    george washington not only chopped down his father's cherry tree, but he also admitted doing it. now, do you know why his father didn't punish him? because george still had the axe in his hand.
    [ Parent ]
    Singapore sounds nice to me (5.00 / 1) (#101)
    by kwerle on Mon Jul 07, 2003 at 02:24:29 AM EST

    I've always admired Singapore for it's clear and strict laws. And the notion that public humiliation is a reasonable punishment. I really must visit there someday.

    [ Parent ]
    Scary (none / 0) (#135)
    by bugmaster on Wed Jul 09, 2003 at 03:50:26 AM EST

    Wow, Singapore sounds really frightening. Chewing gum as a controlled substance ? What next, they give you a $300 fine for air pollution if you had beans for lunch ?

    I mean, I understand that litter is bad, and that it needs to be controlled. I don't think anyone should be allowed to dump trash all over the public streets. But... do the ends really justify the means in this case ? Or is there no "cruel and unusual punishment" clause in the Singapore constitution ? Not to mention that it must be a terrible waste of taxpayers' dollars to keep up the 24-hour jack-booted litter patrols...
    [ Parent ]

    Culture (5.00 / 3) (#49)
    by Bad Harmony on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 02:46:38 AM EST

    I think it has a lot to do with the culture you are raised in. I see adults and kids tossing trash on the ground and it really bugs me. Where my grandmother lived, in Appleton, Wisconsin, you never saw trash on the street. It just wasn't done.

    Whatever tendencies I had to litter were cured by my time in the Army. When you go out on a daily "litter patrol" before starting work, you quickly realize that you are going to have to pick up every piece of trash that you discard on the ground. We were taught to "field strip" our cigarettes when we had finished smoking them. That entails dumping the remaining tobacco from the cigarette and putting the filter in your pocket for later disposal.

    54º40' or Fight!

    field-stripping (5.00 / 1) (#51)
    by kpaul on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 02:50:32 AM EST

    Interesting. My wife picked up the habit of keeping the filters for later disposal somewhere and passed it on to me - most of the time anyway ;)

    2014 Halloween Costumes
    [ Parent ]

    this is why (3.00 / 1) (#55)
    by the77x42 on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 03:17:23 AM EST

    cars should be built with incinerators. ever tried driving with a bunch of empty bottles at your feet?

    "We're not here to educate. We're here to point and laugh." - creature
    "You have some pretty stupid ideas." - indubitable ‮

    There's a very simple solution to this. (5.00 / 6) (#59)
    by rapha on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 04:17:19 AM EST

    You just attach a plastic/paper bag or whatever containment you find useful behind the codriver's seat. Make sure it remains open all the time and is easily exchangable. Now, whenever you have any litter, you just drop it into that containment. When the containment is full, exchange it or empty it, whichever you prefer. (Of course, don't empty it on the street).


    [ Parent ]
    Well maybe (none / 0) (#114)
    by Cro Magnon on Mon Jul 07, 2003 at 09:26:12 AM EST

    That's why I toss my bottles into the BACK seat until I get home.
    Information wants to be beer.
    [ Parent ]
    Get a RWD car (5.00 / 1) (#120)
    by Rand Race on Mon Jul 07, 2003 at 11:26:05 AM EST

    The hump for the transmission keeps the bottles on the passenger side.

    "Question with boldness even the existence of God; because if there be one, He must approve the homage of Reason rather than that of blindfolded Fear." - Thomas Jefferson
    [ Parent ]
    .za's national flower (5.00 / 7) (#57)
    by idea poet on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 03:24:31 AM EST

    I live in Cape Town. It's probably one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Yesterday afternoon, my wife and I were walking up Lion's Head, which give you a 360 degree view of the Cape. Winelands, the boundless Atlantic blue, the miraculously shaped flat top of Table Mountain and you encounter Fynbos amongst the 35000 other species of plants that are indigenous to the world's smallest, but most diverse botanical region. On a good day you can see eagles soar high above the city.

    Walking up there gives you a definite sense of the fragility and miracle of life on this planet.

    So why did some asshole find it necessary to leave his empty, plastic Coke bottle on a cliff face, 800m above sea level?

    The reasons as to why people litte that you spell out in your article doesn't compute with this idiot's situation.

    The South African national government has also now passed a law which bans retailers from issuing the really thin plastic bags. Shoppers must either provide their own form of carrying their groceries, or must buy a thick plastic bag from the retailer. The difference is already visible - and that from a country where we used to refer to plastic bags as the national flower.

    You got it wrong. (5.00 / 6) (#63)
    by Akshay on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 06:53:11 AM EST

    So why did some asshole find it necessary to leave his empty, plastic Coke bottle on a cliff face, 800m above sea level?
    That wasn't some asshole leaving his bottle behind; it was a gift from the Gods, who, in their infinite wisdom, must obviously be crazy to grant you Capetowners such a boon.

    (Sorry, that was just asking for it, don't you agree? :-D )

    [ Parent ]

    That sounds like a good idea for a movie (5.00 / 4) (#69)
    by ad hoc on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 12:15:14 PM EST


    [ Parent ]
    Yes :) (5.00 / 7) (#77)
    by idea poet on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 02:49:23 PM EST

    And funny that you should mention it, because the San (bushman) who played Xixo (the brave guy who threw the Coke bottle over the edge of the world) in the movie, N!xau died this week in the veld, believed to be 59.

    Had the world at his feet, but left the trappings of society to returns to his people whence he came.

    [ Parent ]

    Not just lower classes (3.00 / 1) (#58)
    by bigbtommy on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 04:09:15 AM EST

    I live in deepest Accountant-Lawyerville, England and along the road where I live - just up a little bit from my place is absolutely craploads of litter. And most of it is put there by the middle class commuters in their 4x4's. A few kids and such do so, but I have the strong suspicion it's because of the stockbroker syndrome that my town is suffering from.
    -- bbCity.co.uk - When I see kids, I speed up
    Depends on lower class area (none / 0) (#62)
    by nobbystyles on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 05:06:26 AM EST

    I live in a council estate (housing project) and it's pretty tidy as the caretaker lives on the estate, it's maintained properly, there's CCTV everywhere, 30% of the flats are privately owned and it's in a nice area.

    If people see they live somewhere nice, they generally keep it that way...

    Reasons: My two bits (4.00 / 3) (#64)
    by megid on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 06:58:00 AM EST

    (1) The number one reason is usually: there is no trashbin around. When faced with the alternatives "walk 500m to the next bin" or "keep in your hands", most people will take neither of them, especially when having their minds elsewhere (party, grill, drunk, ...). This is why our parks are normally littered after a hot day. Here (Braunschweig, Germany) it improved a lot when the city decided to pack huge (about 2 m^3) trashbins around the park. People usually want to be orderly, its only offset by inconvenience.

    (2) They dont care shit. Attitude problem. Those people refuse to think about the consequences of their actions. When confronted with their behaviour, they will openly admit that they do the wrong thing but they simply dont care ("Ist mir doch scheissegal, was willst du?" -- "I dont care shit, what do you want?" is the usual answer).

    I am sure there are lots of other reasons, those above are based on my personal experience.

    "think first, write second, speak third."

    Observations (5.00 / 3) (#70)
    by ad hoc on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 12:18:22 PM EST

    One of the biggest problems around here (Boston) is that there are few trash cans around.

    But even when there are, the biggest culprits are the suburbanites who come into town, but their Wendy's triple burgers and throw the garbage on the ground. Then they go home and complain about how dirty the city it.

    I saw one girl (13 or 14 yo) slugging back her diet coke and tell her friend "ugh, this is awful" then throw the whole thing in the middle of the sidewalk. They then got on the train for the burbs.


    A Vicious Cycle (4.25 / 4) (#83)
    by Arkaein on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 08:01:53 PM EST

    I think the lack of pride/ownership here is the key. Because in the US most moderately well-to-do people have fled the cities for the suburbs and come back only for work or entertainment, they feel no personal connection to the city. They don't live there, so they don't care.

    Another thing is the sense of size and anonymity in big cities. You can walk down the street and know that to most everyone else your just another random face. Unless a cop is actually walking, you can pretty much get away with petty acts like littering. People around you may disapprove, but few are likely to voice this disapproval, and many people would simply ignore them if they did.

    lack of enforcement is the third big factor. To alter negative behaviors, it is required that some form of discipline or punishment must be associated with the behavior. To be effective, this punishment must be (or at least be perceived to be) sure, swiftly applied, and fair. This is basic criminal justice theory, and I believe it applies to the psychology of most negative behavior. If people are worried that littering will cost them a hefty fine, they won't do it period.

    None of this would help with some of the issues brought up in other posts such as littering in more suburban areas, but could impact the state of big cities. And if cities are improved, maybe overall attitudes about littering could be improved enough to positively influence other areas by secondary effects.

    The ultimate plays for Madden NFL 2003
    [ Parent ]

    Wow. (5.00 / 3) (#84)
    by coderlemming on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 08:07:40 PM EST

    Sometimes people do things like that and totally amaze me.  I often wonder, "Where the hell do you think it's going to go?"

    Might have taught the girl a good lesson if you walked over, picked it up, handed it to her, and said "I believe you dropped this." or something. :)

    Go be impersonally used as an organic semen collector!  (porkchop_d_clown)
    [ Parent ]

    Girls (4.66 / 3) (#89)
    by ad hoc on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 08:59:38 PM EST

    Those particular girls got into the subway before I got close enough. But I have accosted people before, once with success.


    [ Parent ]
    Compare (none / 0) (#71)
    by TheOnlyCoolTim on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 12:24:09 PM EST

    Anyone have any comparisons between the amounts of litter in public housing and lower-class non-government housing?

    "We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."

    ok, let me expand the thought. (none / 0) (#149)
    by kpaul on Wed Jul 09, 2003 at 10:17:50 PM EST

    too much government involvement scares me. i think the reliance on the government too much for too many things has helped tear down the 'community' system.

    i wouldn't use cameras for the same reason i wouldn't use violence - would cause other problems most likely.

    thanks for sharing your thoughts, though.

    2014 Halloween Costumes
    [ Parent ]

    grr. should be under the 'ugh scary' comment above (none / 0) (#151)
    by kpaul on Wed Jul 09, 2003 at 10:39:52 PM EST

    2014 Halloween Costumes
    [ Parent ]
    Cameras! (5.00 / 3) (#72)
    by treat on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 01:06:37 PM EST

    Assuming there are sufficient garbage cans that are actually emptied (without which people have no choice but to litter), you really need to take more serious action if you want to stop littering in your neighborhood.

    You need surveillance cameras, of a good enough quality to be able to identify someone's face (or license plate if it's from cars) and hopefully the trash they left. Collect each piece into an indivual bag so that it can be fingerprinted. When you have good evidence against 5-10 people or so, take it to the police. They'll ignore you, of course. Repeat 5-10 times, documenting everything along the way. Then go to a city council meeting and complain that the police do nothing to enforce littering laws despite the many solid cases you have given them.

    The downside of course is that this plan is likely to get you hassled by both the police and the litterers.

    too scary, dude. ugh. [mt] (2.00 / 1) (#88)
    by kpaul on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 08:58:12 PM EST

    2014 Halloween Costumes
    [ Parent ]
    Culture of Trash (5.00 / 3) (#74)
    by Quar on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 01:14:58 PM EST

    First off I have to say it wasnt really surprising to see Wake County mentioned as having something. They have a very strong program for building green spaces and softening the rapid growth that is associated with RTP (research triangle park).

    To answer your question tough, I don't litter. In fact I do a very minor version of what you do every morning coming back from my run. I have to walk about 50 feet from the entrance to complex to a greenway and everyday I pickup one item of trash to dispose of. It's never bad but there is always a new bottle or can.

    Where I learned this though is Scouting. One of the tennets always strongly re-enforced was leaving someplace better for the next person. Many times we had visited camping spots and our packs coming out would be heavier than going in just removing trash. This is even from so called Wilderness Areas. This actually leads to the point of my title.

    Most people I wouldnt say are conscously wanting to destroy thier city. But on the other side once the trash leaves their hand they forget about it. Out of sight, out of mind. At this point it just becomes a small part of the bigger problem that is no longer directly associated with them. So that trash into the mailbox, its no longer my problem. Or if it just happens to fly out of the back of my truck? oops, owell.

    Now, this would suggest more trashcans, its only a few more bucks on the budget and be able to cater to people want to be clean. But that doesn't include the rest of structure needed such as manpower, equipment, etc. So it is usually kept to a minimum, not even more then a nod to the problem. Or enough for a soundbite: "We are fighting the litter problem one butt at a time".

    I also think that pyramid termite has a really good point. If there was a sense of ownership in the property, or even a precievable benefit of having responsibilty towards said property, most people would take better care of it.

    One thing that I think, which I havent seen mentioned yet, is that litter could be more of a symption than an actual source problem. Now days most stuff is disposable. Broken? Don't fix it, just replace it. So all this "trash" has to go somewhere. So when everything can be thrown away why worry about that little bit of paper? It will disappear in ten years. Glass will get broken down enough in a couple of weeks, maybe, not be a visible eyesore. We need to worry more about that tv, couch, microwave, bed, chair, table, whatever. Dont get me wrong Im not a recycling nut. But I sometime wonder about any correlations between the two issues.

    Kpaul : I know my opinion may not even be worth the electrons displaying this but I personally want to wish you luck in cleaning up your area and getting community support to do so.

    not a waste. thx for contributing. (5.00 / 7) (#87)
    by kpaul on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 08:56:35 PM EST

    it's one of the things that adds to K5 stories - the comments. sometimes some are even better than the stories, or branch off in some not-thought-of angle or tangent. definitely wanted.

    had a talk with the 'patriarch' figure in the neighborhood today. stopped to chat with him about a tree limb that came down on the 4th and ended up talking about the litter thing. he laughed at me and said nothing could really be done about it.

    he seemed amazed when i told him i was collecting input from around the world via a website called K5. being from an earlier generation that doesn't really fathom the effect the internet is having on society.

    it came to me Friday night too, that the large field behind the complex would be a great local neighborhood spot to watch the city fireworks from. there's a lady i know that runs a weekly newspaper. i'm thinking of talking to her about maybe organizing something next year. it might help some with the sense of ownership in the area too.

    i think the mentality - the throw-away society type of thing - is a big part of the problem. i mean, what were they thinking when they started selling millions of items with so much packaging? that's right, they probably *didn't* think about it - just saw the dollars to be made.

    anyway, i ramble too much. ;) thanks again, though, for adding your thoughts. it is much appreciated.

    2014 Halloween Costumes
    [ Parent ]

    Recycling (none / 0) (#78)
    by virtualjay222 on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 03:13:17 PM EST

    Does anyone remember the recycling crazy from a few years back? It certainly seems to have died off, at least where I live (Long Island, roughly 1 hr outside of Manhatten). Unless my memory fails me, the only time this has been in the news in recent memory is the anything into oil gizmo.

    This came up in a discussion I was having with a professor of mine, and he seems to feel that the problem is a weak market for recycled goods. Any thoughts?


    I'm not in denial, I'm just selective about the reality I choose to accept.

    -Calvin and Hobbes

    Recycling (4.50 / 2) (#81)
    by TheOnlyCoolTim on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 07:11:59 PM EST

    It seems to do perfectly fine where it's economical. I see packaging all the time made from x% recycled material...

    "We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."
    [ Parent ]

    Alive and well here (5.00 / 2) (#91)
    by SoupIsGoodFood on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 09:04:33 PM EST

    Recycling seems to be doing well here in Wellington NZ. Not sure how you guys do it over there.

    Here everyone gets a small green bin. You dump it all in there and it's collected every week, like the garbage.

    It used to be a case of having to drive all the way to a recycling station, and sorting it all out.

    People will do it if you make it easy enough. Although, I do miss hearing the glass bottles break as I rammed them down the shoot of the giant metal bins as a kid.

    [ Parent ]

    Problem with recycling (4.00 / 2) (#110)
    by porkchop_d_clown on Mon Jul 07, 2003 at 07:47:32 AM EST

    The big problem with recycling is that it's still more expensive than just dumping stuff. All the claims about recycling being cost neutral or, gasp, profitable, have been wrong...

    My favorite example is that almost every company I've worked for makes you put white paper in a special trash can - but then the janitors come along and dump them in the same trash bags...

    His men will follow him anywhere, but only out of morbid curiousity.

    [ Parent ]
    Lip service (5.00 / 1) (#113)
    by Cro Magnon on Mon Jul 07, 2003 at 09:20:09 AM EST

    For years people have been giving lip service to recycling. That's all it is! Waaay back in the 70's and maybe early 80's, I paid a deposit on glass bottles of Coke and got it back when I returned the bottles. Now there IS no deposit, and no reason not to throw the (now all plastic) bottles in the trash! Also, there used to be a recycling bin in my neighborhood where I could take stuff. It got scrapped. I'll recycle when they give me any reason, or at least don't actively make it more difficult to do so!
    Information wants to be beer.
    [ Parent ]
    Weak market indeed (none / 0) (#145)
    by JonesBoy on Wed Jul 09, 2003 at 07:00:23 PM EST

    When recycling laws came to NJ about 20 years ago, they advertized all sorts of fines involved for non-compliance.   The state government expected a very slow ramp-up in the particpation in the program, and advertized the penalties to help boost peoples motivation.   When the program started, they found a roughly 80+% (its been a while.  I know it was around here) compliance instead of single digit.   They simply weren't prepared for the onslaught of recyclable goods.   They didn't have places to store them, buyers for raw materials, or even enough municipal equipment to pick up the materials!   Certain materials, like green glass, are used very rarely in the US, that there was almost no demand for recyclable material, even if the facilities were avaliable (most green glass is from import beers, domestic US beer glass is brown)

    It has been a very long time since I was involved in local and national recycling programs, but there is a lot more of a market now than there was when compulsory recycling first took off.
    Speeding never killed anyone. Stopping did.
    [ Parent ]

    Solution (4.66 / 3) (#82)
    by iDream on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 07:46:50 PM EST

    Place a trashcan with a giant opening there, so that even a half-blind gramps is able to reliably toss his garbage into it from a couple of feet away.

    Preferable location is near traffic lights, crossings, etc. in front of that grassy area.

    Bonus points for painting an aiming help on it.

    I bet it will work.  At least it condenses the area where you need to pick up litter from...

    Don't mess with Texas Campaign (5.00 / 2) (#85)
    by rhyax on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 08:30:45 PM EST

    Texas, actually has a pretty large state-wide anti-littering campaign. I've seen people from out of this state think it's some general crazy slogan we have, but it's actually just litter-related. There are commercials on tv, and before movies sometimes, they usually are pretty funny actually.

    Here is the main don't mess with texas page, it has a lot of info.

    The media campaign, boasting 96% familiarity with the slogan.

    and a form for reporting litterers. you don't get a ticket with this, but if a real policeman catches you the fines are pretty severe.

    96% are familiar with the slogan... (5.00 / 1) (#109)
    by jynx on Mon Jul 07, 2003 at 07:43:11 AM EST

    ... but what effect has it actually had on littering? Brand awareness is one thing, getting people to change their behaviour is another.


    [ Parent ]

    Hopefully... (none / 0) (#136)
    by laotic on Wed Jul 09, 2003 at 03:54:36 AM EST

    they at least don't litter the roads with the campaign leaflets.

    Erm... Or do they?

    Sig? Sigh.
    [ Parent ]
    i dunno (none / 0) (#162)
    by rhyax on Sun Jul 13, 2003 at 12:11:14 AM EST

    i don't really think littering is that much of a problem, so maybe it's working. who knows. there isn't a bad full of trash outside on the ground anyway.

    [ Parent ]
    My theory: self-centered society (5.00 / 5) (#92)
    by geesquared on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 09:05:42 PM EST

    In my experience, people who litter are generally those who are self-centered. These are the same people who are outside at 4AM yelling at each other, or harassing passers by. What do they care if someone else has to clean up after them? Why should they care if their neighborhood looks like crap?

    I've seen plenty of tourists just leave crap all over the place. I was walking behind someone who just left a juice bottle of some sort sitting on a newspaper vending machine... when not 10 feet beyond that, in the direction he was walking, was a trash barrel.

    The last time someone littering infuriated me was when one of the homeless coming out of one of the local church's meal programs started smashing bottles on their front steps. I yelled "Hey!" and glared at him, and he just returned this vacant look. I mean, jesus, here these people are going out of their way to do a good deed for him, and in return he leaves their front steps strewn with broken glass.

    I don't necessarily think littering is a class thing. I remember once being on a bus back out to the 'burbs. This one woman who was reading the paper was dressed well, and had on plenty of jewelry (of course, she could have been wearing cheap knockoffs and fake jewels for all I know). She also had a very sour and disdainful look about her. When she was done with the paper, she just tossed the entire thing on the floor. I glared at her, and felt like saying something ("jesus, I'd hate to see what a mess your house must be"), but I'm too non-confrontational for that. Anyhow, a minute later she gets up to exit the bus and trips over the newspaper. I looked right at her and started laughing my ass off. I dunno if she got the object lesson or not.

    I don't know how to combat litter. If we in the US had a more civil society, perhaps it would be easier. Right now, we have a society that glorifies personal excesses, be that in driving huge pollution-spewing vehicles that make the roads more dangerous, blasting music through huge car stereos, or demonizing those who hold contrary views. In light of that, I can't really think of a way to get across to people that littering is a problem.

    They don't think... (4.00 / 1) (#93)
    by gidds on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 09:21:53 PM EST

    I suspect littering isn't because people think someone will clean up after them. Nor because people think of deliberately trashing a household or neighbourhood. Nor because people think it doesn't matter, or that it'll biodegrade. It's simply because people don't think. All they care about is not wanting the litter around - outside the car window, or under their feet, is this mental void, which will swallow up anything they deposit and render it as invisible as the rest.

    the dump that is my street (5.00 / 1) (#95)
    by blisspix on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 09:58:16 PM EST

    I live in a small block of flats which has slowly deteriorated. Shopping trolleys are permanently parked everywhere, there's always junk on the street, and the residents are just ick. This is in quite a nice part of town though.

    I was actually thinking about why yesterday, when I walked home and saw that someone had dumped 3 couches, an old TV, exercise bike, and all sorts of junk after they moved out.

    1. People who live in flats tend to not have cars. So they can't take the junk anywhere.
    2. There's no dump or trash collection place within an hour of the flats.
    3. Local governments no longer do their twice a year bulk goods pickup, so people just dump stuff whenever all year long hoping someone will clean it up.
    I have actually put a working microwave out on the street, because we had no other way of getting rid of it. On our street, working stuff gets taken within the hour by other residents, so I didn't feel too bad about it. But I would certainly never throw real trash on the street.

    have you ever heard of garage sales (5.00 / 1) (#118)
    by turmeric on Mon Jul 07, 2003 at 09:51:23 AM EST

    i donno what you call them over there. but here we haul our trash into the front lawn and put up a sign 'big sale' and wait for people to come buy it

    [ Parent ]
    Unless I'm badly mistaken... (4.00 / 2) (#138)
    by scanman on Wed Jul 09, 2003 at 11:17:22 AM EST

    What you described above is called a "yard sale", not a "garage sale".

    "[You are] a narrow-minded moron [and] a complete loser." - David Quartz
    "scanman: The moron." - ucblockhead
    "I prefer the term 'lifeskills impaired'" - Inoshiro

    [ Parent ]

    It's not that I'm lazy, Bob... (4.80 / 5) (#99)
    by EminenceGrise on Sun Jul 06, 2003 at 11:59:41 PM EST

    ...it's that I just don't care.

    Seems to be a good summation.  Actually, I think there are a number of problems that contribute to littering specifically.

    • People are inconsiderate of others, or simply don't think.  You see this not just with litter, but a lot of other things, e.g. shopping carts set adrift in the parking lot even though there is one of the cart corrals (or what ever you want to call it) 10 feet away.  People often assume that someone else will clean up after them.  When I was going to school (university/college), I also witnessed the appaling practice of spitting on the floor of an inside hallway.  That would have earned a dope slap, had I been close enough to deliver one.  I often view things like this as incredibly rude, however, I don't think it's obvious to the people who do it, and I'd venture that many of them simply haven't thought about it.

    • People are "naturally" messy; at least some seem to be.  There are some rather nasty examples of how some people live, and a few have already been mentioned here.  Cleanliness I think is a very much learned trait, although being extremely messy if often learned as well.

    • Packaging materials are insane, I have recently become aware of just how much trash one person can produce (me).  I can't seem to find anything at the grocery store (or any store) that isn't grotesquely over packaged.  Part of the problem is the marketing influence (I want a "real" package to open, especially if the item is expensive) - often items that have cheap looking packaging are overlooked, while expensive packaging is better, even though what's inside can be total crap.  If manufacturers actually had to pay to dispose of their packaging, I can guarantee this would not be as much of a problem.  We might even see reusable packaging.  Right now though, the burden is on the consumer - you pay for the packaging and you pay to dispose of it too.  An interesting question: how much does it cost you per year to dispose of trash?  Also consider the dwindling number of landfills and what that will do to how much you pay.  I wish I could find products that weren't packaged like they were state secrets, but they seem to be few and far between.

    • Disposable shite products: it's nearly impossible to find anything built to last.  It seems like this started around the 70's or so, but it's hard to say for sure.  There has always been cheap stuff out there, but today that's about all there is.  Toasters, coffee pots, etc. are good examples - today they suck and last maybe a year.  It used to be possible to buy something that would last a lifetime or more - it's rare now.  I will always consider paying more for something built to last, but in todays disposable culture that seems to be rare.  Eventually this keeping up with the Joneses business (buying cheap is the only way for most people to keep up with the turnover of all the new consumer crap) will come back to bite us all in the ass, and in many ways it already is.  Cell phones are a good example, all you have to do is go to any Goodwill type store to see all the cast off "old phones".  The rapid pace of technology makes it all but impossible to design things to last or be upgraded.

    All these things lead to the mindset that it's okay to just toss things away.  It's really interesting to consider where we are headed with the idea that things can just be trashed.  It's incredibly easy to forget about things once they get dumped (wherever), but the reality is that it ends up somewhere.  I'm waiting for the day that someone realizes the goldmine of materials dumped in landfills and figures out a way to mine them economically and makes a fortune off of everyone elses "trash".

    Spectrum (none / 0) (#121)
    by gte910h on Mon Jul 07, 2003 at 11:49:41 AM EST

    ...it's that I just don't care.

    Seems to be a good summation.  Actually, I think there are a number of problems that contribute to littering specifically.

    I've seen it put a spectrum

    (You take care of me)
    (I'll take care of me and you take care of you)
    (I'll watch out for/take care of you too)

    When life's going bad and we're looking inwards, we're supposed to be near the top of the chart, and when we're doing well, we move towards the bottom. People center at different places on the chart but move up and down dependent upon circumstances.

    [ Parent ]

    Confessions of a junk-picker (5.00 / 1) (#102)
    by epepke on Mon Jul 07, 2003 at 02:35:03 AM EST

    I've been a junk-picker, devoted to dumpster diving for several decades now. It's great. The thrown-away telephone relays and television sets I picked up as a kid enabled my electronics and computing habit.

    By far the best junk-picking is in college neighborhoods, but it only gets good at the end of the semester. Year-round good junk picking can be had in poor neighborhoods. Rich neighborhoods are useless. They never throw anything away. They spend twice as much on each item, but it lasts for 20 years instead of 6 months.

    The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett

    Don't you have garbage-collectors ? (none / 1) (#104)
    by fhotg on Mon Jul 07, 2003 at 04:22:24 AM EST

    These people in orange vests who get paid for cleaning up public space ?
    Gitarren für die Mädchen -- Champagner für die Jungs

    In Pennsylvania they aren't paid.... (4.00 / 1) (#108)
    by porkchop_d_clown on Mon Jul 07, 2003 at 07:39:04 AM EST

    I haven't seen paid garbage collection on public streets in years, it's all volunteers whose only "thanks" from the state is a little blue street sign.

    I've personally pulled 10-12 large bags of trash off of 1/2 mile of highway...

    His men will follow him anywhere, but only out of morbid curiousity.

    [ Parent ]
    Not entirely true + a free observation (none / 0) (#144)
    by Hobbes2100 on Wed Jul 09, 2003 at 05:23:06 PM EST

    Just a note,

    In the Oakland area of Pittsburgh, PA, there are paid crews. The highways are mainly cleaned by various civic groups (like fraternities, sororities, and misc. clubs). I spent three fine years cleaning parts of Route 79 near Meadville.

    In other news, I believe the reasons for the large amounts of litter in ghetto areas is the same reason that pedestrians in ghetto areas don't understand things like crosswalks and traffic lights. Now, I don't know what that reason is, but I have a hunch they are the same. If I had to guess, I'd say it involves a lack of respect and a lack of hope. And yes, I do live in an area where I can observe this on a day-to-day basis (as I trip on a beer bottle on my way out the door).

    Sed quis custodiet ipsos custodes? --Iuvenalis
    But who will guard the guardians themselves? -- Juvenal
    [ Parent ]

    Halifax, UK (5.00 / 2) (#105)
    by nebbish on Mon Jul 07, 2003 at 06:31:07 AM EST

    The local council in Halifax (northern England, not Canada) has started a policy of aggressively fining people who drop litter, including cigarette butts, a bit of a first in the UK. It is a poor town with its fair share of social problems. It'll be interesting to see how it works out.

    Kicking someone in the head is like punching them in the foot - Bruce Lee

    Effect disconnected from behaviour (4.00 / 2) (#111)
    by jynx on Mon Jul 07, 2003 at 08:00:29 AM EST

    People litter for the same reasons they cause any kind of pollution - the effect of the polluters actions are completely disconnected from polluter. Say that Bob Litterlout suddenly decided to mend his ways and stop littering. What change will he see? Nothing at all. The city will still be full of litter because everyone else will still drop litter. There is no immediate reward for the "effort" he has gone to to dispose of his litter properly, so he isn't going to bother. I think littering is a case where good behaviour really needs to be drilled into people by the authorities. All we need is a big concerted campaign to make littering socially unacceptable. It will be expensive and difficult at first, but once people are properly "trained" it should be easy to maintain. I think people need to intervene more as well. How many people would litter if everytime they did 5 people told them not to? Sure, some people would still, but not nearly as many. I attend a lot of festivals (large open-air music/culture events) in the UK, and it's interesting that peoples mentallity towards litter directly dictates how much litter there is. At "Green Themed" events like the Big Green Gathering, thousands of people can spend a week camping and living in a field and there is no litter at all. It's not even because it's tidied up better, as I've spoken to the litter crews and they say there is just no litter to collect. At other events of the same size, but attended by a different type of audience (e.g. Ashton Court Festival) there is a carpet of litter covering the entire site within hours of the festival openening, despite the fact there are bins ever 100m. I don't think it's down to the number of people, the number of bins or any factor other than the attitude of the people there. At bigger festivals, you can even see the same effect within one place. At Glastonbury Festival, compare the amount of rubbish around the dance tent (where it is socially acceptable to litter) to the amount of litter around the Green Fields (where it is unacceptable).


    Litterbug Exterminator Kit (none / 0) (#112)
    by flo on Mon Jul 07, 2003 at 08:17:56 AM EST

    I first thought you meant this. It's probably more effective, anyway.
    "Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair!"
    actually (none / 1) (#117)
    by turmeric on Mon Jul 07, 2003 at 09:47:49 AM EST

    as leader of the crips i have specifically assigned some of my crew to throw garbage up and down that road. we love watching your stupid do gooder ass.

    Neighborhoods on a Map (none / 1) (#119)
    by UltraNurd on Mon Jul 07, 2003 at 10:17:22 AM EST

    I think it's interesting that you really can't tell the relative niceness of a neighborhood when you're looking at a map of a city. A recent example: I was visiting some friends at UPenn, and we decided to go out for fast food. We found the nearest Burger King (about 6 blocks north of his dorm) online, and started walking. As soon as we passed the Presbyterian medical center, everything was in a much more degraded condition. The houses were falling apart, the roads and sidewalks hadn't been repaved in at least 40 years, and there was graffiti everywhere. One of my friends was uncomfortable walking around this particular neighborhood at dusk, and the Burger King wasn't where we thought it was, so we circled back and eventually ate at Chili's on campus.

    I think there is really no way to fix this problem. You can't just send money from on high, because fixing up a neighborhood would raise the cost of living so that none of the people who live there could afford to live there. You're not going to encourage richer people to live there, except out of altruism, because they can afford to live somewhere else. On top of that, they're definitely going to work somewhere else, because very few businesses would take the risk of operating in a "bad" neighborhood. The 20th Century was all about demonstrating that applied socialism doesn't work, largely due to corruption, so we can't just redistribute wealth to equalize neighborhoods. Municipal officials rarely go out of their way to help these neighborhoods, because their donations, connections, political influence, etc. comes from richer areas.

    I commend your efforts, but I wonder if they will turn out to be completely futile. I really don't know how to encourage civic pride on the level that people will keep their neighborhood in good condition. I will say that litter is a problem just about everywhere: in "bad" neighborhoods, along major highways, in downtowns, etc., etc. I guess it's one of those Tragedy of the Commons things.

    "Your Mint Mountain Dew idea is hideous and wrong."
    -Hide The Hamster

    futile or not (none / 1) (#125)
    by JahToasted on Mon Jul 07, 2003 at 03:05:13 PM EST

    Its still a good thing to do. Maybe he doesn't make the world noticeably better, but he does make it better nonetheless.

    I look at picking up litter as easy karma. I usually bring back whatever items I can easily carry back from the beach. Sure the tourists are still gonna dump their shit all over the place, but there will be at least a few less items lying around. What really pisses me off is people that leave glass bottles on the beach. Not only does it fuck up the beauty of the place, but if it breaks, it is likely to cut up someone's feet. But anyways, I don't have time for a rant right now, so I'll leave it at that.
    "I wanna have my kicks before the whole shithouse goes up in flames" -- Jim Morrison
    [ Parent ]

    Just because something's futile... (none / 1) (#129)
    by UltraNurd on Mon Jul 07, 2003 at 04:18:40 PM EST

    ...doesn't mean you shouldn't do it. Resistance, for example :oP.

    "Your Mint Mountain Dew idea is hideous and wrong."
    -Hide The Hamster
    [ Parent ]

    Before reading any of the comments... (none / 1) (#122)
    by Fon2d2 on Mon Jul 07, 2003 at 12:11:29 PM EST

    some of my thoughts on the issue... Throwing things away, recycling, and all that jazz requires work.  Or at least more work than simply tossing something in the street.  Now why would somebody do that work unless they had a vested interest in it.  Of course richer neighborhoods have less litter.  Their property values are worth more.  They actually own their own property.  Of course the better off will fight to maintain their assets.  Now contrast that to your typical public housing project or low income apartments.  The buildings are often decrepit or poorly maintained.  The soil quality is usually poor, favoring weeds over grass.  And the tenants have no ownership and thus not much feeling of responsibility over the area.  What effect does one extra piece of trash have in this neighborhood?  Or ten pieces for that matter?  Not much.  And here's a hypothetical question: if you did manage to clean up litter and do some neighborhood beautification, wouldn't you just raise property values, and change the demographic of the people living there.  Wouldn't seem like accomplishing much to me.  So yeah, you probably are the "crazy white boy picking up trash".

    Pride, respect, ownership (none / 1) (#124)
    by twh270 on Mon Jul 07, 2003 at 02:36:22 PM EST

    When you don't "own" the place you live in (in any real, tangible fashion), it's really easy to get lazy about taking care of it unless it's a core ethic for you.

    People who don't have much respect for themselves and others litter because they don't have the willingness or ability to say "Hey, I'm not going to crap all over my neighborhood -- I'm not willing to put up with that, I'm better than that". It's remarkable what kind of "living" conditions some people will accept when they have little self-respect.

    Pride cross-cuts both of these. Pride in ownership, pride in self that you are "above" littering.

    You probably won't have much success. But try doing something to give people some kind of investment in their neighborhood -- a personal involvement. You'd see the amount of litter go down. It's got to be something visible though. Cleaning up litter isn't enough, you have do embark on a project that makes people say (even if it's at a subconscious level) "Gee, that's a nice place, I don't want to litter there".


    Libertarianism (4.00 / 3) (#126)
    by gbd on Mon Jul 07, 2003 at 03:13:52 PM EST

    I don't know a lot of litterers, but most of the ones that I do know tend to be libertarian types who consider anti-littering ordinances to be oppressive infringements on their freedom to discard their personal property as they see fit, without intervention from the government. Recently, while on a road trip to see a concert, a friend of mine threw eight empty beer bottles out of the car window into the ditch. When I reminded him that that was illegal, made the countryside look trashy, and that somebody would have to pick them up, he said "Who are you? Chairman Mao?" He then lectured me for a half hour, telling me that if you buy a Big Gulp and a pack of Marlboros at 7-11, the contents and the packaging become your property and that there is nothing in the Constitution that allows the government to regulate how you dispose of said property.

    Mind you, I don't agree with this logic, but this is how it was presented to me. And there does seem to be some (at least) anecdotal evidence for the validity of this theory; the areas of the United States that are most heavily-littered are those areas where big-L Libertarianism has taken its strongest hold.

    Gunter glieben glauchen globen.

    So, dump your trash on his lawn. (none / 2) (#127)
    by Fon2d2 on Mon Jul 07, 2003 at 03:48:57 PM EST

    It's obviously within your constitutional rights. Or if he lives in an apartment... on his living room floor, or in his bed.

    [ Parent ]
    Your friend's an idiot (none / 2) (#130)
    by Cro Magnon on Mon Jul 07, 2003 at 05:36:25 PM EST

    Frankly, I don't give a flying fsck about anti-littering laws, but why junk up the countryside? It has nothing to do with being a Libertarian. I don't think the "welfare princes" I see dumping their trash on the streets are Libertarians. They're just jerks. Like your friend.
    Information wants to be beer.
    [ Parent ]
    Tell the anti-libertarian... (none / 2) (#142)
    by rantweasel on Wed Jul 09, 2003 at 04:02:56 PM EST

    A libertarian would recognize that the place where that trash lands is not his property, and therefore leaving trash there would be a violation of someone else's property rights.  A complete weasel would use libertarianism as an excuse to be lazy.  Tell your friend that he needs to pick which one applies to him, but he shouldn't call himself a libertarian if he's going to assault someone else's property with his trash.


    [ Parent ]

    Link (none / 1) (#159)
    by nklatt on Fri Jul 11, 2003 at 03:58:07 PM EST

    Got a link to support your claim that "the areas of the United States that are most heavily-littered are those areas where big-L Libertarianism has taken its strongest hold"?

    [ Parent ]
    That's about as libertarian as... (none / 1) (#166)
    by Daelin on Wed Oct 29, 2003 at 11:58:37 PM EST

    That's about as libertarian as a wife-beater saying it's perfectly fine to beat a woman because Jesus struck a few women.

    That guy's just a lazy fuck with authority issues.  It has nothing to do with liberty.  That guy would probably start on a rant if he ever had to talk to a libertarian.  He's probably more of an anarchist that liked the sound of the word.

    [ Parent ]

    Just keep being a cheerful example (5.00 / 2) (#128)
    by arthurpsmith on Mon Jul 07, 2003 at 04:01:36 PM EST

    and talk to your neighbors while you're out and about; tell them all the stuff you've gotten rid of. Even if the litterers don't quit, you should get some helpers from the people who live around you. But be sure to do it cheerfully - you're making your neighborhood a better place, and you're happy to do it. Think Tom Sawyer painting that fence :-)

    Energy - our most critical problem; the solution may be in space.

    Inventor of blue box, dead at 57 (none / 0) (#131)
    by DominantParadigm on Wed Jul 09, 2003 at 12:48:37 AM EST

    He shall be missed

    Caller:So you're advocating bombing innocent children? Howard Stern:Yes, of course!

    Two points... (none / 1) (#137)
    by laotic on Wed Jul 09, 2003 at 04:11:03 AM EST

    ...I used to live at a college hostel in our city with my girlfriend for a couple of years, along with several thousands of other university students. The buildings were huge, 13 storeys each, like two great grey slabs of balconied tile stuck in the ground. Now, every morning the ground around would be hopelessly littered with what I could not discern from our 10th floor room, but there was a lot of it. Out would come a guy, I think he was slightly retarded, so no college-goer, and would pick it all meakly up, pack in plastic bags and haul off.

    Morale? Nobody gave a damn, nobody cared to help or even stop by (except for a girl I knew who used to give him candy). He probably was paid for the cleaning and when there was no more money, the litter just poured on until it reached some equilibrium (diluted by wind and what not).
    So you probably really need to have a paid litter-cleaning service to maintain things, because people are not going to care...

    ...When I was young, during That Other Era, there used to be collective cleaning campaigns every spring. You were supposed to come out of your 4, 8 or 12-storey apartment building and clean the poor lawns up a bit. Skips were provided. There was some social pressure, it was advertised and generally, collective-minded was the thing to be. That subsided and today nobody cares. Slowly, the city council started running the cleaning campaigns again. Only, it's apparently hiring some less well-to-do beings, dresses them in up orange vests and they do the picking for us.

    Morale: kpaul, you could ask for a municipality grant, hire a bunch of the more controllable kids and become the local litter-lord. :)

    Sig? Sigh.
    alas, another sign of the times; apathy (none / 1) (#147)
    by kpaul on Wed Jul 09, 2003 at 09:06:50 PM EST

    thanks for the thoughts. much appreciated.

    at this point, i think i'm gonna go with the 'use that big empty lot for community events' idea and try to tie events there and trying to make it a place not to litter. attach some local ownership to it. it'd be for a good cause, but it will be interesting to see if i can get use of the lot.

    maybe, though, it goes beyond litter - attempting to change society as a whole a little at a time.

    i guess my experiment (at its heart) is whether i can get other people to start caring by caring myself.

    also, re: retarded. have you ever read any Dostoevski? he has a novel The idiot that i highly recommend. the guy you describe could be Prince Myshkin in the novel. The woman giving candy could indeed be a rather complex love story if you look beyond the surface. (or perhaps not...)

    in any case, thanks again for your input.

    2014 Halloween Costumes
    [ Parent ]

    Well, apathy... (5.00 / 2) (#152)
    by laotic on Thu Jul 10, 2003 at 05:39:58 PM EST

    ...isn't anything new, I guess. If our ancestors were so eager to help each other and build things communally, we wouldn't be reading about so many wars and warlets in all times and eras.


    maybe, though, it goes beyond litter - attempting to change society as a whole a little at a time.


    Oh, I understand this completely. When I moved in, I wanted to change the way thigs were in our apartment block. Sadly, that spirit has disappeared. I still wish things were better, but now I restrain myself - "when that leaking balcony upstairs is repaired so my living room yucca does not end up drenched after every major rain, I might start doing things about changing that apalling shade of green in the lobby". I just egotistically chose to direct my energy elsewhere...


    Of course I read Idiot, but I think even the field of literature has seen some progress in between. Idiot, IMO, is not too well written - it's captivating, but a bit incoherent. Implausible. The Myshkin character is completely likeable and clever, not idiotic at all, and it looks as if the author imposes on him both that lowly urge of masochistic love and a mystic disease which cripples his mind only to suit the purpose of the plot.


    The woman giving candy could indeed be a rather complex love story if you look beyond the surface. (or perhaps not...)


    She was a friend of mine and she just felt for the poor guy who was picking all the dirt every morning while thousands of studends walked by, none probably even said good morning, and they were those who mostly dumped that litter there... So I'd say it was pure and nice empathy.

    Sig? Sigh.
    [ Parent ]
    What to try next? (5.00 / 2) (#148)
    by nomic on Wed Jul 09, 2003 at 10:03:43 PM EST

    After reading the various comments, I'm only seeing one kind of suggestion: get more people to pick up litter.  This is in the form of enlisting neighbors to help pick up the litter, pay people to pick it up, or petition the government to pick it up.

    How do you get people to stop throwing junk out of their cars?  I only have two suggestions:

    1. Inform them of the impact they have
    2. Make it less 'appropriate' to litter
    How hard would it be to create a sign that states how much litter is picked up from that block each week?  Challenge people to help reduce the litter problem.  Make it cute so their kids get into it, and they can see the change as the sign is updated.  This seems to be something of a hobby for you, so maybe point them to a web site where you can document what is picked up.  Especially point out envelops with names and addresses, or perscription drug containers with names on them.  Post digital photos.

    Just don't insult people or talk down to them.  They'll just want to throw something at you.  More litter.

    I like the neighborhood involvement idea.  This opens the possibility of planting flowers, pant fences and houses, and generally improve the look of the neighborhood.  Make the block look nice.  If it doesn't look like a dump, the theory is that people are less likely to add to the trash.  This will probably take a lot more work though.

    Local School (5.00 / 1) (#163)
    by niku on Tue Jul 15, 2003 at 07:39:57 PM EST

    I think the idea of getting kids involved is great. You should call your local elementary school and ask them to help you start a campaign to help clean up your neighborhood. You could have a bi-monthly cleanup and a nice bbq where all the kids and their parents get together after cleaning and do all the usual weelbarrel type games. I would imagine that that would raise awareness and have the additional benifit of creating a sense of community which would probably get closer to the heart of the problem.

    Nicholas Bernstein, Technologist, artist, etc.
    [ Parent ]

    welfare people (none / 1) (#156)
    by parasite on Fri Jul 11, 2003 at 02:55:35 AM EST

    Ever have some coon's dig through your garbage for food ? They don't even have a mental concept of 'orderliness' or any other such concepts for that matter -- they are animals. The world is made of 4 things for them: inanimate objects, things that can kill them, things they can fuck, and things they can eat. That is ALL. Now take raccoons out of this concepts and substitute welfare people -- now does the world make a lot more sense ? Ever seen to Warren, Ohio ?

    Those people are really animals!!! We used to rent out apartments there.

    Litter (none / 1) (#160)
    by mcgrew on Fri Jul 11, 2003 at 06:37:26 PM EST

    The fast food litter bothers me more than the liquor bottles. It's pretty silly to expect drunks and winos to be responsible.

    The fast food, though- that shit comes out of the windiows of Lexuses, whose owners throw thier trash on your street out of disrespect for you- indeed, out of their belief that you, as a poor person, have no value.

    To them, you are a "nigger" or "white trash." They will run over you to avoid hitting a mangy dog. You have no value to them at all.

    At my last house, some preppie pups sat in the street outside the house in their daddy's new car munching McBurgers, and when finished threw the bag of trash in the street.

    I walked up, threw it in their faces and told them to get the fuck off of my street and if I saw them again I'd call the cops.

    See my next diary (not the one I just now posted) for a true and very disturbing and disgusting story of classism and murder.

    "The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie

    My Litter-Removal Experience (5.00 / 2) (#164)
    by collideiscope on Sat Jul 19, 2003 at 02:39:31 PM EST

    When I was young I lived with my parents in sub-suburbia. You know the type - lots of 5 acre parcels and 5,000 sq. ft. houses, mini-ranches, etc.

    Everyone once in a while my dad would take me out on a Saturday morning and we'd walk along a few miles of country road near our house with plastic trash bags, picking up litter. There wasn't much but we usually covered enough territory to get a bag apiece.

    I think something about all the space, and the spacing of houses, and all the openness, might also encourage people to litter. It's not like anyone's going to witness it, and out in the country like that it seems like there's plenty of room in the world for greasy fast food bags and empty beer bottles.

    Hope is a disease. Get infected.

    Make sure you wear protection (5.00 / 2) (#165)
    by latestringtones2003 on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 08:15:18 PM EST

    No glove no love!

    Litter - It's in Your Hands | 166 comments (149 topical, 17 editorial, 0 hidden)
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