General Question

Smashley's avatar

How would one construct a “litter trap”?

Asked by Smashley (12439points) 6 days ago

Roadside litter is a scourge of infectious, anti-social behavior that is rarely punished.

In a rural American setting, how would one go about creating the tools and strategies to deter and punish litterbugs?

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28 Answers

SQUEEKY2's avatar

Just make getting rid of trash easier, like more roadside pullouts where people can dispose of their waste in trash bins that are animal proof, but then there is the cost of maintaining them so probably never going to happen.
You could just shoot litterbugs on sight, just a few shooting and I bet it would stop.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

Put a deposit on all trash. Like the way we do on bottles.

Smashley's avatar

I’m specifically looking for actions an individual can take, rather than a society. Shooting is a tad extreme, but I appreciate thinking outside of the box!

seawulf575's avatar

Dammit @Smashley! Now you put a question into my head and I can’t get it out!

I, too, don’t like litter. But trying to get people to stop is bizarrely difficult. I think first we need to look at why people litter. It is basically laziness. You finish eating your adult Happy Meal and throw all the stuff out the window instead of holding onto it until you get to a trash can. It’s just laziness. I don’t think there is a cure for laziness.

You need to come up with some way to catch those that litter and then come up with a way to punish those that do. Some possible options would be to set up cameras along roads. If you have a spot near you that gets a lot of trash you could put up a High-Res camera on each side of the road (to catch litterers going either way). Have them set to record like traffic cams do. Something like a car going buy triggers the camera. That way if you get a picture (or video) of someone tossing trash out you could get a license plate number and give that to the cops.

I did have a situation near us where I knew who was littering. It was a back road and the guy was frequently driving drunk. You could see the trash all along the side of the road up to where his driveway was and then it stopped. I toyed with the idea of going out and picking up all the trash (it would have been several garbage bags full) and then, on some dark night, dumping all the trash on his front steps. But I’m not sure he’d get the hint.

ragingloli's avatar

Well now, listen up y’all ‘cause I’m fixin’ to set the record straight on this whole dang mess ‘bout litterin’. Some folks out there, bless their hearts, reckon that we gotta stop litterin’ like it’s some kinda crime against humanity. But lemme tell ya somethin’, it ain’t nothin’ but a bunch of hogwash.

First off, ain’t nobody gonna tell me what I can or can’t do with my trash. It’s my God-given right as an American to throw my garbage wherever I darn well please. If I wanna chuck my empty beer cans out the window as I’m drivin’ down the road, that’s my business. Ain’t nobody got no right to tell me otherwise.

And what’s all this fuss ‘bout keepin’ our country clean? I reckon a little trash here and there adds character to the place. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with a bit of litter strewn about. Gives the critters somethin’ to rummage through, keeps ‘em busy.

Now, some city slickers might say, “But what ‘bout the environment?” Well, I’ll tell ya what I think ‘bout the environment. It’ll survive just fine with a few candy wrappers and soda bottles layin’ around. Mother Nature’s tough as nails, she ain’t gonna be bothered by a little ol’ litter.

So next time some fancy-pants tries to tell ya to stop litterin’, ya just tell ‘em to mind their own dang business. ‘Cause as far as I’m concerned, litterin’ is as American as apple pie and shootin’ guns on the Fourth of July.

Smashley's avatar

I see it as a social contagion rather than laziness. Anyone can see the personal utility in dumping trash on the side of the road (it is faster, personally cleaner, easier and cheaper than other methods of disposal). The reasons some people will not litter are ones of personal responsibility to not cause harm to others, respect for the rule of law and the social structures of civilization, and the fear of repercussion.

The effects of group thinking are well documented. If someone sees that other people are breaking the rules of society, they are more likely to do so themselves. Why not access the utility of littering, since we’re all already victims of it? How can I be held responsible when I was only a follower? I think everyone but the most ignorant of people know the harm they are causing, but have somehow rationalized it. The current state of things is that people litter all the time, and there is litter everywhere, and no one does anything about it, and no one thinks anyone is going to do anything about it. Litter is so prevalent because this part of the social contract is breaking down.

I’m of the opinion that deterrence: fines, prosecutions, and public shaming are the only way to jolt people back into compliance. Long term, making everything biodegradable is probably best, but we are where we are with plastics.

Cameras are definitely best, I would think. Something like a trail-cam, perhaps? Some kind of night vision would be ideal, since I’m sure most of it comes as night (especially the beer cans).
What would this kind of rig cost?

And what would be the best strategies after taking the photos? Document and collect the evidence for forensic analysis? Sending the info to the media and cops simultaneously? A blog of local litterbugs?

flutherother's avatar

In China public thoroughfares are kept scrupulously clean as each section of road is the responsibility of one person to keep litter free. The litter pickers are paid to do this, but not very much. They don’t get holidays but can come to an arrange with other litter pickers to get time off.

jca2's avatar

Also, smokers feel it’s totally acceptable to flick their cigarettes out the car window. I asked a question about this once here.

Smashley's avatar

@flutherother – I’m not really looking for advice from environment destroying dictators or imperialist slavers. Again, this refers to an American rural setting.

@jca2 – oh, they’re on the list too, don’t you worry.

Love_my_doggie's avatar

I’m not convinced that a larger number of receptacles would make any difference. Litterbugs are rude, selfish, and inconsiderate people. Would they really care if there were more bins in convenient locations?

1–2X per week, I visit my city’s recycling center. I’ve noticed something about the other people who stop by while I’m there—they’re all friendly and polite. My conclusion—nasty folks can’t be bothered sorting their waste and putting suitable items into the recycling stream. The same is likely true of anyone who throws trash along roads or litters public areas.

KNOWITALL's avatar

I’ve tried calling people out and public shaming, cleaning myself and posting the bags but nothing works. Thinking about gamecams.

Smashley's avatar

@KNOWITALL – I agree. I think the only thing that will work is instilling the fear that they could be caught.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

How about a litterbug, when caught littering, gets banned from fast food, or where the litter is from, for a month?

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

Or how about having A.I. register all recyclables to a specific person? To be accountable for all trash?

Zaku's avatar

Or hang them in a cage from a tree, with a sign pointing at them saying “LITTERERS”.

jca2's avatar

I’ve seen posts in social media where people will describe a person who’s got a dog, when the owner of the dog is allowing the dog to go to the bathroom on people’s lawns. Sometimes public shaming helps, but since there are not any follow up posts saying the incidents are no longer happening, it’s hard to know how effective it is.

MrGrimm888's avatar

I read an article once that claimed after studying litter in national parks, they actually did find a commonality.
They found that areas that already have litter, are far more likely to accumulate more.
The idea is that when people see a place untouched by humans, they clean up after themselves well.
If they see trash on the ground already, they are less likely to be thorough in cleaning up after themselves.

So. One proven solution, is to pick up all litter you see, as it will likely prevent more litter.

Smashley's avatar

@MrGrimm888 – I agree that cleaning is part of the solution, but it doesn’t solve anything. The daily leavings of cigarette butts quickly create the conditions where larger trash moves in. In my 500 foot stretch I’m calculating about 20 butts dropped each day.

I really think that fear of fines, prison and public shame is a necessary part of the solution.

Zaku's avatar

Or combine the two – have part of the imprisonment and shame, and learning, be having to clean up litter.

MrGrimm888's avatar

Certainly, I think “community service,” in the form of picking up litter should be added to the fines.

@Smashley I get it. It’s just a part of heavily trafficked areas. It’s almost unavoidable, and the worst litter in my opinion is the drug paraphernalia type. Needles, broken crack pipes, and alcohol bottles are not just unsightly, they are a huge health hazard. Especially if kids are also in the area, which is sadly common.

Ultimately. I don’t believe you can force someone to respect their surroundings. If we could teach them to care about the location, then I believe most wouldn’t litter.

I live in a tourist destination, and even though people come here because they love it they still trash our beaches and have brought stricker rules with each summer.
I know that an “open container,” can be ticketed in Charleston County. When I was a LEO, it was $1,000 fine.
Most people are given the chance to simply pour out their beverage and/or discard of the container. If people are assholes about it, they get the fine.

But penalties are often ineffective, as a deterrent. From my experience….

SQUEEKY2's avatar

@MrGrimm888 totally correct fines, and penalties do little as a deterrent, I mean most convenient stores and truck stops give out free vehicle trash bags and yet people still litter.
smokers still toss their butts out the window, they will defend themselves by saying shit it lands on the road don’t know why your so freaked out over it, yeah the car behind you blows it twenty or more feet off the road then the problems start.
Most newer vehicles don’t even come with ash trays now a days , so go to the dollar store and buy a cheap one.
Don’t know if there is a real answer to this,some people will toss their butts and trash out the window regardless ,just show the people in your life it isn’t ok to just toss it anywhere ,it might catch on.

jca2's avatar

I think people who litter have no conscience about the topic. I feel like it starts at home, and so if people’s parents taught them not to litter, it would help. Don’t throw it on the ground, put it in the garbage, and if there’s no garbage around, take your garbage with you to your car or to a garbage pail and throw it in there.

Smashley's avatar

@MrGrimm888 – enter the litter trap. The public ridiculing, the threat of fine, and the fear that you are being watched by hidden, high rez, night vision cameras, could do a lot to reduce casual littering and dumping. You don’t have to have them everywhere, but if they could be anywhere, people will think twice.

MrGrimm888's avatar

^I think we need swarms of drones, all making sure we all behave.

Brian1946's avatar


If you’re being facetious, then LMAO!

MrGrimm888's avatar

The future is going to be wild!
The same thing is the technology for such an atrocious violation of freedom, is already available. It simply has not been produced/distributed, yet.

Seeing the little drones in Ukraine, with RPGs, and all types of gadgets making the Russian army look obsolete, means (to me) that anything someone with an unlimited budget could create could potentially control the air, as a automated “hive.”
If the US stopped building $13B aircraft carriers, and used that money to make millions of drones…........the rapture is nye!

They could make a drone, to personally monitor every single one of us, 24/7. Even kill us, if we disobey.

Smashley's avatar

Honestly, automated surveillance of public roadways would be fantastic. Catching drunks and reckless drivers could be a secondary bonus.

MrGrimm888's avatar

^There are no pros, in my mind, that would outweigh the cons of even opening the door to such things.
Once most cars are autonomously driven, the speeding, recklessness, DUI/DWI problems should go away on their own.

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