A simple proposal to reduce litter

March 14, 2022 by Joshua
in Nature, Tips

Picking up litter daily, as I have since 2017, I notice many trends. One big one is that Saturday and Sunday mornings, my neighborhood has more litter from people going out the night before. The plastic cups from bars, bottles, takeout containers, and other detritus from visitors makes it obvious.

Most of the trash cans are overflowing, so when I pick up the litter, I can’t put it anywhere. I can often tell where it came from, often the specific bar or restaurant, but at least the type of venue. Some of them used to have trash cans the public could use. Now I don’t think any of them do. It looks like they’ve realized how much trash all of them contribute and that they can’t handle it all, so they don’t accept trash from the products they sell.

As a result, taxpayers have to handle both the garbage in the streets (plus the rats, smell, loss of real estate, etc) and paying to clean it.

My proposal

I propose requiring stores that sell single-use packaging to provide trash cans accessible to the public twenty-four hours per day, sufficient to handle the amount of trash they sell, so proportional to their shelf space for the trash-producing products they sell.

No store has to sell disposable anything. Nor does life require disposable anything. The stores can sell fruits, vegetables, and what humans ate healthily for hundreds of thousands of years (anthropologists have found that our diets got less varied and healthy since agriculture). Only stores choosing to pollute have to provide receptacles to collect the pollution they sell, so it’s voluntary.

The proposal is fundamentally business-friendly. As with New York banning cigarettes in bars, which led to New Jersey people coming to New York for the cleanliness, we can expect the cleanliness to improve business. Who wants to visit a place covered with garbage?

It also benefits poor and food insecure people most. They suffer most from the various unhealthiness and extra costs of disposable things. In general, everyone would benefit from it leveling the playing field, making the market more free and fair, and removing artificial subsidies. At its root, my proposal is about accounting., lowering taxes, attracting people, not repelling people, and not making our world a filthy shithole.


I’m not saying this solution alone solves all our litter problems. It doesn’t stop the garbage production, nor does it target the production. But it does shift the cost from the taxpayer to the people involved in the trade, who currently pass their costs.

[EDIT: after posting, I realized I posted this idea a few months ago: A billion-dollar simple (partial) solution to litter. Oops, one of the side effects of posting daily. Still, until the proposal happens, I consider it worth promoting.]

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