Living with Litterers

Litter is a public nuisance. It is hard to imagine there is anyone who appreciates the sight of litter in their neighbourhood or community. It’s ugly and it indicates an area has been overrun by slobs, criminals, and other lowlifes with no concern for anyone outside of themselves.

Littering is plainly one of the most annoying crimes, partly because it is the most unnecessary. Those who litter may claim the personal convenience is worth the risk of being caught, and that there’s already so much litter what is the harm in one more miniscule piece of litter fluttering about with all the other pieces of litter? All excuses aside: littering is just not cool.

How to Reduce Litter

So what can be done about it? How do we stop those who have no regard for the law or for the values of society? The answer is the appropriate enforcement of litter laws. Why do we need litter laws? Litter laws are in place to stop people from littering, but the real question is what kind of litter laws are most effective in dissuading potential litterers and punishing those who are unable to properly dispose of their waste.

In the opinion of many, steep monetary fines for those found guilty of littering is the best solution. The obvious justification for fining litterers is that it dissuades individuals from littering because they know if they get caught there will be financial consequences. Littering is such a seemingly inconsequential crime that some might be quick to not think twice, as is often the case in areas with a lot of litter.

Leveraging fines against those who litter is solid punishment because it demonstrates that while littering may not be among the most heinous of crimes, it is certainly not excusable and the monetary penalty will make that point clear.

Aside from dissuading potential litterers and punishing those who violate litter laws, another reason why fines against litterers make sense is that litter is an expensive problem to deal with. The clean-up of litter is not cheap, and by fining those responsible for littering some of the clean-up costs are recovered by the government. In order for litter laws to be most effective, heavy fines should definitely be given out and the public should be made aware of the serious legal and financial consequences of littering.

Do the Crime, Pay the Fine!

To do this most effectively it is important to differentiate between different types of littering. Intentional littering is worse than unintentional littering; to be fair fines should be higher for those who knowingly litter compared to somebody who fails to properly secure a load and inadvertently spills refuse. Companies who litter very likely have a greater environmental and aesthetic impact than an individual, accordingly it would make sense if fines against businesses violating litter laws were higher than those against individuals. Also, to be effective the fines for individuals who knowingly litter as well as commercial entities that knowingly litter must be well-known by the public, and they must be expensive- the impact on reducing litter of a 100 pound fine will certainly be less than the impact of a 250 pound fine. It is unfortunate that individuals may be fined such large amounts, but if they knowingly act in violation of the law there is no excuse no fine too expensive.

There’s no excuse for littering, period, and the policy of hitting convicted litterers with harsh fines is a great way to drive that point home while ensuring that potential litterers think twice.

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