Littering should require a minimum punitive fine of $1,000. For litter items less than 1 centimeter in size in it’s longest dimension, the penalty should be $500. For litter items of unusual size or type or with a significant ‘yuck’ factor, like a wood plank or a pile of pet droppings, the penalty should be doubled to $2,000. For all littering violators, the estimated cost of cleaning up the litter should also be levied. Larger pieces of litter such as furniture, tires, or even bagged trash, etc, would require minimum fines of $$4,000 or higher depending on the actual volume and nature of the litter. Uncontained mounds of litter deposited by one person/party would be charged a fine for each item in that mound according the the schedule stated above. Accidental droppings or wind-blown escapes may be exempted or given a reduced penalty according to the specific circumstances of each case.
The littering of glass containers (perhaps limited to non-tempered glass?) should be subjected to a larger fine, such as double the normal amount, due to the public safety risks such broken glass poses, including the additional risk of flat tires for cars and bicycles. Perhaps catching and fining enough times the litterers of products which are not tempered (like some alcoholic bottles) will cause them to either migrate onto consuming products which do come in tempered bottles (in order to reduce potential fines) or to stop littering. Over time, perhaps consumer demand (for some products) will drive the makers of products to increase their use of tempered glass.
Putting the wrong kinds of trash into specific trash containers, especially putting garbage into yard-waste only containers, should also be treated as littering. The penalty should also be a minimum fine (ex. $1000) and a multiple of the estimated cost of cleaning it up.
Graffiti should also be treated as littering and subjected to a fine and punitive multiple that is largely proportional to its size or prominence. Graffiti whose largest dimension is less than 12 inches would be given the $1,000 fine. If its largest dimension is 2 feet, it would be given a $2,000 fine. If 4 feet, then $4,000; 10 feet, then $10,000.etc. In addition, the estimated cost of cleaning it up should be levied.
The wrongfulness of littering should be drilled continuously into the minds of every member of society through as many media outlets and other avenues as possible. This should be an important thrust of primary education. The $1,000 minimum standard penalty for littering should also be common knowledge.
Litter Collection Competitions
In an attempt to harness the competitive human spirit to help incentivize the hunt for litter to clean up litter from the environment, perhaps governments or even private organizations could sponsor litter collection drives where people would be paid based on how much litter they picked up from a given area. This system could be used for virtually any area – urban, suburban, rural, and even wilderness areas.
School children should be incentivized to collect litter around their campus. Not only would it save the more expensive time of the custodian from having to spend an hour a day doing this task, but it would allow children to earn some money doing so. Kids could be paid $1 per pound of litter collected. The specific rules would be written out and students would have had to have read them and agreed to them to prevent arguments about the details of the program and payments. Sufficient installation of surveillance cameras would be critical in the capturing of cheaters taking garbage out of trashcans and claiming it to be collected litter. Penalties for cheating should naturally be very severe.
However, there should be an emphasis on cleaning up litter pollution in scenic and unusual lands such as along desert roads and fields, mountain trails, ocean floors, Antarctica, and other unusual and tourist locations. Perhaps this could encourage the development of new technologies to clean up certain environments, like the ocean floor, more efficiently.
Government Funded Litter Collection
Perhaps the homeless or anyone else who wants could be hired to collect litter anywhere they want for the price of $1 per pound of anthropogenic litter that is deposited at an approved location. Hefty deductions would be made if such people bring in rocks, sand, water or anything else that is considered ‘natural’. Beverages other than water inside their containers would be considered anthropogenic and qualify as litter. People who bring in concrete chunks (so long as they themselves didn’t break off the concrete chunk), discarded furniture, shopping carts, mattresses or anything else that is made by humans and in a location where such items are not supposed to be should qualify as litter. Of course, some mechanism for ensuring that people do not go into trashcans and fraudulently produce their contents as evidence of them picking up litter needs to be implemented. Apart from imposing dramatic penalties for engaging in such fraud (equivalent to several times the expected earnings), a public awareness campaign could be launched informing and encouraging the public to provide evidence of such people engaging in such fraud. This way, litter would be ‘magically’ collected along highways, bike paths, street gutters, and countless other places.
During times of natural disasters, such as tornadoes or earthquakes when litter will naturally abound, this program should be suspended until the normal cleanup process has officially been completed.
Together with the hefty littering fines and enforcement stated above, once the bulk of litter has been collected, the price paid for gathering litter by the government could be raise to whatever amount the market will bare, such as $5 or $10 per pound.