A billion-dollar simple (partial) solution to litter

November 5, 2021 by Joshua
in Creativity, Nature

A problem exacerbating all the litter in the world is that stores profit from selling it without paying the costs of the litter. Here’s an idea that I propose working into legislation:

Every retail store that sells disposable or packaged products must provide receptacles to accept at least the volume and weight of disposable products and packaging that they sell, available to the public any time they are open. This rule would apply to convenience stores, delis, restaurants, takeout places, bars, and more. Any place is free to sell non-disposable goods or not use packaging.

Since they get their stuff from suppliers:

Distributors of disposable and packaged products must accept any trash collected by retail stores.

Needless to say, none of what they collect can be dumped. It can only go to approved composting, recycling, or landfills.

Inspiration and why it will work

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, New York City, under Giuliani cracked down on sex shops with a rule allowing “shops to stay open if they limited adult entertainment to less than 40 percent of their merchandise or floor space.” Here’s an article from 1998, Sex Shops Try to Obey Law, as Written. The shops fought back in court. I’m not sure the outcome. They may have won, but I think the city succeeded in closing most.

I doubt any city will close sex shops forever. They’ve been around probably nearly as long as cities. Plastic hasn’t. Vibrators and fetish clothing aren’t filling the oceans and killing wildlife. Packaging is. Packaging and takeout attract rats and spread smell and disease.

I believe the public would support a rule that what businesses dish out they be able to take.

The rule would decrease taxes and ease the job of the Department of Sanitation, which shouldn’t have to clean up public messes. That’s poor accounting, for the city to pay businesses’ costs. Any businessperson would recognize this market distortion, which my proposal would fix. Again, any store can stop selling disposable. Humans lived for 300,000 years without packaging or plastic.

Sanitation’s annual budget in New York City is $1.6 billion. This proposal would decrease that budget, which I believe justifies the billion-dollar figure in the headline, combined with its implementation across the country and around the world.

What we’re up against

To remind you, here is a normal everyday scene in one of the most desirable neighborhoods in the city. The rest of the city and world look no better. People profit from creating this poisonous mess. Entire industries do. They damage your body as much, though what you do to your body is your business. What people do to the public is the public’s business.

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1 response to “A billion-dollar simple (partial) solution to litter

  1. Pingback: A simple proposal to reduce litter » Joshua Spodek

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