Social Question

ibstubro's avatar

Is throwing food (only, no packaging) out your car window considered littering?

Asked by ibstubro (13974 points ) April 19th, 2014

Today I had a ‘wrap’ sandwich and when I got to the end of it, there was a huge wad of flour tortilla, which I subsequently threw out the car window. Is that still considered littering if it was all organic material?

(For the sake of argument, I will allow that it is certainly littering in a dense urban area such as NYC.)

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33 Answers

fluthernutter's avatar

I’ve considered this question myself. My personal conclusion: It depends on how long it takes to decompose.

Meaning the 1/8 of a French fry you fish out from that crevice between the seats is okay. A chicken bone is not.

Also, where you’re tossing out said trash matters too.

Even half a French fry is not cool if you’re tossing it out on someone’s curbside. But if you’re driving through no man’s land, who cares? It’ll be gone before anyone comes across it.

If it doesn’t impact anyone, it’s fine. If it bothers someone, it’s trash.

Bill1939's avatar

Yes. Trash is trash even if it biodegradable.

hearkat's avatar

I will throw apple cores out the window onto the grass, but I wouldn’t have thrown bread or a tortilla. As far as the law is concerned, I am not sure if the rules are different for organic material vs. non-organic, but in my mind, if it’s not something I would put in a compost heap, I’m not going to throw it on the side of the road.

Judi's avatar

In California the only things you can throw from your car is liquid water and live chicken feathers. (Hubby had to go to traffic school.)

Symbeline's avatar

Food causes no harm to anything as it decomposes, I mean not like pollution. In fact it can contain nutrients for the earth, plants animals and bugs.
Well not entirely sure about food filled with crap from factories and preservatives and stuff, but people, for example, maintain compost heaps all the time.

Mind you, by pollution, I’m thinking of harm, not aesthetics.

dappled_leaves's avatar

It’s a bad idea wherever you are. If you’re in an urban area, you’re littering. If you’re in a rural or more natural area, you’re feeding wild animals, and teaching them to associate roadways with food. Bad for everyone.

ibstubro's avatar

I never save an apple core or banana peel to take home and send to the landfill. I toss them out the window when I’m in a sparsely peopled area (not hard to do around here).

On @dappled_leaves page, I used to throw food into the ditch along side the house (no neighbors). Then I realized that coons and possums will eat anything. Now I usually flush spoiled or unwanted cooked food into the septic system.

Dan_Lyons's avatar

Littering is really an eye of the beholder kind of thing. In the eyes of the policeman writing you that $1000 ticket, it probably is littering. In the eyes of that Raven croaking nevermore, it could well be a lovely snack.

Jaxk's avatar

If I take a dump on your front porch, is it OK because it is organic?

ibstubro's avatar

No, @Jaxk. If you have to go that badly, you’re welcome to step into the woods. For gourd’s sake, at least go around back. The raccoons are the ones that use the front stoop.

dxs's avatar

Food shouldn’t be taken for granted anyway.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@ibstubro I would think a little stuff would be okay, but I get so much shit littered on my road my tolerance is down to zero. The next asshole that throws something on my road better hope I’m not armed.

ibstubro's avatar

Yes, I get a lot of road litter, too @Adirondackwannabe. But if it’s food, I never know it, as it rots between mows, or gets mowed with the rest of the vegetation. The fast food bags tick me off the worst because the crap is way over packaged, and if you don’t go collect the bag, there will be paper strung all over the yard. I have one of those ‘reach extender’ grabbers for the riding mower – I just need to rig up some sort of holster for it.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@ibstubro I’m thinking we need a deposit on fast food bags and all the food containers. It’s ridiculous on my road. Fucking pigs.

ibstubro's avatar

Perhaps they need to do away with drive-throughs. If most people had to go in, I believe they would just eat there, @Adirondackwannabe.

The last time I ate fast food, I stopped at Hardee’s for a grilled fish sandwich. It took me maybe 5 bites to eat the sandwich, so I left the lot with a large paper sack, several napkins, a small cardboard box, and a greasy piece of paper. All of it reeking of fast food, of course, so non-reusable. If someone would offer all-your-food-on-one-paper-plate dine in, I would eat (slightly) more fast food. I literally felt guilty.

I’m working on refusing plastic bags when feasible. No, my Subway sandwich does not have to be in a bag, and what’s the point in bagging that stick deodorant I just bought? Many clerks seem unnerved by someone that will not take a plastic bag. It’s a pair of jeans I will not wear without washing, for cripes sake!

Cruiser's avatar

Yes…by definition litter is…“Litter consists of waste products that have been disposed improperly, without consent, at an inappropriate location. ” You did litter and slap yourself on the wrist and go pick up someone else’s crap to make amends.

ibstubro's avatar

B b b but, @Cruiser, you’ve taken the leap that throwing an apple core in the road ditch is a waste product that has been disposed improperly, which is the heart of the question. How is organic material being returned directly to the Earth ‘improper disposal’?

I pick up ‘someone else’s crap once a week during the summer, before I can mow my yard.

Cruiser's avatar

@ibstubro I did not write the law…turn yourself in immediately or I will have to make a citizens arrest. ;)

Coloma's avatar

Not really, IMO, if it is biodegradable, and something will eat it most likely, be it a pigeon or a stray animal. I recently drove around with some gourmet pizza crust that I had from a mini-pizza lunch until I found some pigeons that were thrilled to have it. haha
For years I pitched all my leftover fruits and veggies into the woods, or tossed them to my neighbors sheep or left things out for the raccoons. They loved my blackberry cobbler.

Party at Colomas!

ibstubro's avatar

BS, @Cruiser. The cop would grow so weary of my constant repetition of “How is the road ditch not an appropriate place for an apple core?”, I’d get a warning at most.
Ticket? I’d start in on the judge.

Party at Colomas!

Coloma's avatar

It’s Corona time!

ibstubro's avatar

Coloma time

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

It ceases to be litter upon the moment a bird picks it up… IMHO.

Judi's avatar

But what matters is the law, not what you think.

ibstubro's avatar

I think you might be right, @RealEyesRealizeRealLies. The ant starts in, the raccoon comes.

If you never break the law, @Judi, more power.

Afos22's avatar

I recently threw two banana peels in the woods, and I felt like i was doing well.

flutherother's avatar

Litter is litter and I have a zero tolerance policy.

Cruiser's avatar

@Afos22 I feel the same way every time I toss an apple core out the car window…a deer will eat that night.

flutherother's avatar

Everyone who leaves their trash behind will justify it to themselves in one way or another but the real reason often comes down to sheer laziness. The result is an unsightly and often unhealthy mess in public places.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@Afos22 @Cruiser The deer will eat that night regardless of whether you toss them an apple. But by tossing them an apple, you help train them to look for high-sugar, high-calorie foods from humans by or in the roadway.

The question is not about whether we want the wild animals have enough to eat. It’s about whether we want them to be hit by cars, or end up being shot for foraging near people’s homes. Let the wild things fend for themselves; it’s better for us and them.

ibstubro's avatar

@dappled_leaves I get your point, but I don’t think throwing food remnants out the window of the car is any more likely to shorten an animal’s life than it is to make a dent in the landfill. Considering that most of the food put out the window is pounded to pulp by other cars, I still consider throwing my banana peel out the window a .001 positive.

The artificial lighting of the roadways is a much larger problem for wildlife. It attracts volumes of insects which in turn attract mice, snakes, frogs and possums, which attract larger predators and scavengers.

Johnny Appleseed.

Afos22's avatar

I feel like I’m offsetting some of the damage that humans do to plant life, by fertilizing the earth with my banana peals.

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