Monday, April 25, 2011

New approaches to litter enforcement

I think about litter way more than I would like to. Noting that it's unrealistic to expect a police officer to show up and write a ticket every time someone randomly drops an empty soda can on the sidewalk or fails to pick up after their dog, this poster to the Takoma listserv had a different idea, and I have to say I think she might be onto something.

A crucial step, I to attain wider community compliance -- and buy-in -- by requiring residents and businesses to clear litter from the sidewalks and tree boxes in front of their homes and stores--and issuing warnings and fines if they fail to do so. We require homeowners and businesses to clear their sidewalks of snow for the sake of public health and safety. It is not a big jump to require the same for litter. My guess is that if people participate regularly in cleanup--and it would be a relatively small amount in front of
their homes and businesses--they would catch on pretty fast about not throwing stuff on the ground. By the way, many of us on my block already do this front-of-house cleanup on a regular basis.

Sounds like a variation of the broken windows theory that would place the responsibility for cleanliness on all of us, rather than just on the known litterbugs, or on our police officers. Would non-litterbugs be willing to assume this responsibility? I Googled "litter laws" in an attempt to find out if other large cities in the U.S. have adopted any similar codes, but haven't found anything yet...anyone who can school me, please do so.

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