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Monday, May 3, 2021

Littering: A Problem Government Can't Clean Up

     By the 1960s, America's cities, towns, and suburban areas were being buried in trash. Bottles, cans, wrappers--you name it--covered streets, sidewalks, roads, parks, and other public areas. This unsightly, unhealthy filth led to the installations of millions of public trash containers and an aggressive anti-littering campaign designed to make dumping one's trash in public a behavior considered taboo. Legislatures also made littering a fairly serious crime through the imposition of large fines. Notwithstanding these efforts, littering grew into an even bigger environmental problem. It also represented an alarming display of civic disorder.

     In some cities, sidewalks and streets are now littered with human feces and hypodermic needles which not only lowers the quality of urban life but presents a public health problem.

     Police officers who arrest litterbugs will tell you that offenders either deny littering, or simply shrug it off. There are no apologies. Many litterers are simply indifferent or lazy, and in some cases expect others to pick up after them. Some litterbugs, feeling disenfranchised and powerless, dump their trash as acts of anger or defiance.

     A country cannot solve a littering problem through its criminal justice system. The problem can only be fixed through voluntary compliance and a sense of civic duty. A country that cannot keep itself clean is a nation in decline.

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