I mean COME ON, a soda bottle? You could've hit someone in the head!
February 22, 2012 10:52 AM   Subscribe

What's going on in someone's head when they blatantly, casually litter? What justifications do adults use for dropping their trash onto the street?

The other day, a friend was out near Prospect Park in Brooklyn when a middle-aged woman rolled down the window of her car and threw an empty full-sized soda bottle onto the street.

When I'm out in the city, I routinely see people drop food wrappers onto the sidewalk or on the floor of the subway car. This often happens within half a block of a trash can.

Witnessing this behavior is one of the few things that makes me want to angrily confront total strangers.

Although I can't help but immediately assume that they're self-absorbed, entitled assholes, I know that realistically most people are pretty decent and have internal justifications for their behavior. But I'm having a hard time figuring out what the inner dialog concerning littering might be, because the concept is so totally foreign to me -- I'll fill my purse with gum wrappers before I'll even consider dropping them on the curb.

Do you know someone who litters and has explained their thought process to you? Can you help me understand that outlook, so I can maybe feel a little less enraged about it when it happens?

(BONUS QUESTION: I often have the urge to pick up the offending piece of trash and throw it out myself, but worry that will just give the litterer the satisfaction of seeing someone else clean up after them, and make the situation even worse. Is this crazy?)
posted by Narrative Priorities to Human Relations (93 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
There is no thought process. It's just a stupid, meaningless action.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 10:55 AM on February 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


My guess is the only thought going on is "must get rid of garbage."
posted by Wordwoman at 10:55 AM on February 22, 2012 [11 favorites]


I often have the urge to pick up the offending piece of trash and throw it out myself, but worry that will just give the litterer the satisfaction of seeing someone else clean up after them, and make the situation even worse. Is this crazy?

If something is the right thing to do, then it's the right thing to do regardless of whether you approve of someone else's reaction to it.
posted by aught at 10:58 AM on February 22, 2012 [31 favorites]


In a city, they probably assume that someone else who is paid to pick up trash will deal with it for them. I don't do it because it still makes the city look ugly and gross.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:58 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not that this makes it OK, but the "do no litter" norm can vary widely among different cultures and countries.
posted by pantarei70 at 10:59 AM on February 22, 2012 [10 favorites]


I once asked a smoker if she considered throwing her cigarette butts on the sidewalk and street to be littering. She did not, because she did not consider them to be the same as other "bigger" garbage.

Don't look at me, I don't get it either.
posted by keep it under cover at 10:59 AM on February 22, 2012 [22 favorites]


People figure, hey its the city, someone will pick it up.

At least that's what I think.

/I've been guilty myself of this practice, but have quit years ago.
posted by handbanana at 10:59 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have no answer for your question. I once saw someone roll down a car window and drop a used baby diaper. I think it's something along the lines of "this is not my home, I work hard enough, I deserve to have it easy in this one instance. Everybody else does it. One piece of trash doesn't hurt anything. Look what I can do!"

But yes, I have picked up trash and said "that's okay, I'll take care of that!" Probably not wise in every situation.

I've also honked my car horn to scare a litterer.
posted by vitabellosi at 11:00 AM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm having a hard time figuring out what the inner dialog concerning littering might be

They're probably just like "eh whatever." Some people just don't give a shit, and there's usually nothing anyone can say or do to make them give a shit.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:00 AM on February 22, 2012


Probably what the others have said in terms of thoughtlessness, but I think there's also perhaps a sense of first-world entitlement or imperialism. "I am strong. My people have conquered others, and therefore I have earned the right to do as I please."
posted by Melismata at 11:01 AM on February 22, 2012


Here's the mental process I'd guess people are using:

1. Thought: I have something in my hand I don't want.
2. Action: Throw it on the ground.
3. Thought (optional): Not my problem anymore.
posted by The Michael The at 11:02 AM on February 22, 2012 [13 favorites]


Throwing trash away is putting it "elsewhere." Either it's contained, or it's not, and some people are content with "elsewhere" being out of their car (or out of their hand). And either way, it's not their mess to deal with.

(Why don't more people recycle? Because recycling is just a more complex of making things go away.)
posted by filthy light thief at 11:03 AM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have seen so many people throw cigarette butts out of windows, and I feel angry every time. I have had someone tell me their taxes pay for keeping streets clean so what difference does it make. I'm guessing they just weren't raised properly and/or as others have said, they just feel entitled to do as they please and how dare we judge them? : /
posted by Glinn at 11:03 AM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh, and it's also the same thought process where people in my office throw plastic into the trash, despite the fact that the plastic recycle bin IS RIGHT NEXT TO THE TRASH. Either they are just not thinking at all/don't care, or feel entitled. I so don't get it.
posted by Melismata at 11:04 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


It can also be a 3rd World cultural mind-set.
I have traveled to several of the poorest countries in the world, and there is no garbage disposal service in many of those places. Haitians, Hondurans, and others grow-up just dropping trash on the floor. There are no other real options in the ghettos of Port-au-Prince.

Then they come here, and they are still in that mind-set of just dropping trash where-ever.

That does not make it right - but that is part of the explanation. I am a landlord here in the US, and I have a few homes that I rent to Haitians (off the boat recent immigrant Haitians). They think I am crazy when I get made at them about all the litter on the lawn.
posted by Flood at 11:05 AM on February 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


I suspect that for some people at least part of it is a subconscious effort to exert control over their environment when they don't really feel like they have much control. Kind of like the pedestrians who take their sweet time crossing the street and glare menacingly at the drivers who are waiting for them the entire time. It's their power, slight as it may be, and they are going to use it.
posted by Balonious Assault at 11:06 AM on February 22, 2012 [16 favorites]


A lot of this has to do with your culture and the way you were raised. Littering is not an inborn moral feeling, a lot of us wouldn't feel the same way if we hadn't been from the families we are from. 50 years ago, plenty of people littered because it was just a thing, they didn't give it a second thought. They weren't evil, malicious, or necessarily lazy (well, kind of lazy). It's just not something they thought about.
posted by Think_Long at 11:06 AM on February 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


My misanthropically biased feeling is that people just do not give a flying fuck about anything but themselves and their own convenience.
posted by elizardbits at 11:06 AM on February 22, 2012 [17 favorites]


I think it's just pure selfishness for the most part. "I want to get rid of this piece of litter. OK. Now I don't have the litter any more." In a city, people may also think that there are people who are employed to clean up after them.

My one exception to my "never litter" policy is parts of the NYC subway. The subway is apparently removing garbage cans from the platforms to cut down on litter. Make no sense, you say? Well, the logic is apparently that, by removing the cans, people will take their litter with them and then 1. the subway folks won't have to dispose of it and 2. no more "overfull" cans that people just pile stuff on and make the platform look unsightly. In those stations with no cans, I carefully place my litter in the place where the cans used to be.
posted by Betelgeuse at 11:06 AM on February 22, 2012 [9 favorites]


While I don't litter, I do sometimes do an equivalent action at the gym: I'll leave weights on the bar for the next person to unrack before adding theirs. (I know. It's terrible, but hear me out).

I go to the gym in a DC neighborhood somewhat known for the privilege and snootiness of its residents, and - I'd say 75% of the time, at least - when I walk up to a bench or a squat rack, there's already weight on the bar, sometimes a significant amount. Yesterday I had to take 495lbs - that's ten 45lb plates - off a bar that someone was deadlifting before me. The guy literally left it there and walked onto his next exercise. Oh, yeah, it was on the ground too (and I can't deadlift 495) so I had to awkwardly scoot the plates off the bar. It took forever.

So, occasionally, when I'm exhausted and its my last set of a workout, yeah, I'll leave the plates on the bar and walk out. Why? Because no one respects the rules in the first place. I can imagine a similar thought process for littering.
posted by downing street memo at 11:07 AM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, for one thing, the concept of "littering" is really different across cultures. So it could be a totally normal, decent human being -- and, considering the countries where littering is okay tend to be a lot poorer than our own, probably not entitled -- who just grew up with a different idea of environmental cleanliness and hasn't adapted to the, ahem, contextually correct one yet.

I often have the urge to pick up the offending piece of trash and throw it out myself, but worry that will just give the litterer the satisfaction of seeing someone else clean up after them, and make the situation even worse. Is this crazy?

Not crazy, no, but from a hygiene standpoint I wouldn't go around putting my hands on people's garbage.
posted by griphus at 11:07 AM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


A friend once was analyzing the messiness of my car. She asked me "What does it mean to you when you leave your empty coffee cup in the cup holder?" I was confused, since there was no meaning at all, at least not consciously. Nothing was going on in my head. It was not a matter of me deciding "It's easier than picking it up out of the holder, finding a trash can, and disposing of it," and certainly not that someone else would do it. I wasn't deciding anything at all.

I think it's much more an issue of "gum wrapper in hand; now gum wrapper not in hand."
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:07 AM on February 22, 2012 [15 favorites]


Ugh, I can't stand when people litter. I also leave gum wrappers in my purse.

I googled your question and got the a list of reasons why people litter from this link:

-They can’t be bothered or are too lazy to find a bin
-They have no sense of pride in their community
-There is a lack of education / poor parenting of young people
-If an area is already dirty, why bother to look for a bin?
-People don’t appreciate the consequences of littering (see Effects of litter)
-We live in throwaway society with a ‘snack culture’ and too much packaging
-It’s not cool to use a bin
-Litter keeps someone in a job
-People aren’t aware that some items are litter eg food, cigarette ends, chewing gum
-It’s OK to litter if no one can see you!
-It’s OK to litter if you are drunk!
-There aren’t enough bins
-The bins are in the wrong place
-The bins aren’t emptied often enough
-The bins aren’t big enough
-The bins are not suitable for disposing of dog mess or cigarette ends
-The bins are dirty
-There aren’t enough fines for littering
-One person can’t make a difference
-It’s rebellious and anti-authoritarian to litter (is it?)
-Fast food outlets don’t care about the litter associated with them
-Everybody does it!
-The Council aren’t doing their job properly
-There are much worse things in the world to worry about than litter
posted by livinglearning at 11:07 AM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh, and as someone who used to be responsible for taking care of a 6th Ave. storefront, people just assume things will get cleaned up. I've been outside, sweeping, and people will just drop litter in front of the shop because, hey, someone's cleaning it.
posted by griphus at 11:09 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


when i worked at the portrait studio, people would hide dirty diapers in the prop-rack - pails and such that their child could actually sit in at some point, and then piled high with the stuffed animals and toys i'll put in the kids' hands (or the next kid). sometimes it would be days before we found it.
posted by nadawi at 11:11 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's a lovely study Littering Behavior in America: Results of a National Study (PDF).

The conclusion (which you should read) seems to be that propensity to litter is a combination of (lack of) nearby receptacles, age (older folk litter less than young), and "how much you care about litter". That last one sort of begs the question a bit, maybe there's another study that digs into it a bit more.
posted by feckless at 11:12 AM on February 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


For the same reason they don't push into the train or wait for others to get off before they get on. Because a certain percentage of people were either raised selfish or have decided that they are going to be selfish and the rules apply to everyone else.

The good news is these people are in the minority.

The bad news is their actions are much more noticeable than the absence of those actions, so they stick out like a sore thumb and make all of humanity look bad.

Just try to constantly remind yourself that most people do not litter. Most people are good.

And there may be some culture to it but the worst literbug I ever knew was a middle class kid from the 'burbs. When I went to pick up the Styrofoam cooler he tossed out his car door he asked me if I was some sort of environmentalist.
posted by bondcliff at 11:13 AM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't have a good answer- but it is seriously a pet peeve of mine as well.

I've seen mothers tell their children to "get rid of something" and mean for them to toss the garbage onto the ground. This enrages me. I can clearly remember my mother scolding the crap out of me and my brothers for dropping garbage. "What's wrong with you that you can't find a garbage?"
posted by Blisterlips at 11:13 AM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


The...a...fail at editing. This is what happens when I get excited about responding to a question about littering.
posted by livinglearning at 11:14 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I once saw a local newsperson who went around and asked smokers who tossed their butts out the car windows why they were littering like that: some of the smokers said that wasn't really litter, some of them (caught on camera doing it, mind you) denied doing it at all, and some said they tossed their butts out like that "because it looks pretty when the sparks hit the pavement".....
posted by easily confused at 11:18 AM on February 22, 2012


I was once in a car with a colleague who littered out the window. We were parked, just about to drive, but just before we did, she turned to me and said, "just so you know, I litter." I blinked, and then she did so.

She knew it was inappropriate behavior, but she had made it her oppositional identity to be a litterer.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:19 AM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


For some items, such a apple cores or tissues, people believe that they will degrade without an issue.
posted by Jehan at 11:21 AM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Regarding cultural aspects of littering, you may be interested in this article (if you can find it).

'Open space/public place: garbage, modernity and India' by D Chakrabarty

It's basically about inside/ outside space in South Asia vs Europe, and how that relates to littering.

Also, it's pretty noticeable how much faster non-plastic things disintegrate in hot climates. Here I am forced here to repress memories of slowly defrosting months-old dog excrement in Montreal springs - in hot climates that wouldn't last a day. That must have some influence one one's willingness to toss things on the street.
posted by tavegyl at 11:23 AM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think "somebody else is paid to pick it up" is the main justification, but it's really a question of what cultural norms a person grew up with. I would bet good money that people who casually litter are also in a social circle where it's a more "normal" behavior.

There are also probably some malcontents who think it's a clever little "fuck you!" to a society they feel alienated by; it's hard for me to understand that point of view (but being white, male, educated, and upper middle class, The System usually works in my favor)
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 11:30 AM on February 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


My aunt used to do this. I found it wrong at humiliating at 4 years old, she thought it was ok at 55 or so.

She did it because she was trashy, and took little responsibility for her actions. She had impulse control issues. She just did what she wanted. She didn't care. Someone else would clean it up.
posted by devymetal at 11:35 AM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think the justification is usually, "There's already litter on the ground." Cigarette butts especially, altho those are actually harmful to the environment. And...people are crazy selfish.
posted by agregoli at 11:38 AM on February 22, 2012


I think it has to do with upbringing/culture. It can also apply to recycling. I live in Vancouver, BC and 99% of the people I see put things in recycling bins or take them with them to recycle. But if I go to the outer suburbs or, worse yet, other provinces, people just throw perfectly recyclable bottles, Tetrapaks, cans and newspapers in the trash. I have the same reaction that I do to littering. I just can't even imagine what goes through someone's head, other than, as noted above, "Must get rid of trash."
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 11:44 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I litter. But only fruit cores/peels. And only in grassy medians of interstates. And I take the stickers off the fruit first.

I do it in case we get lucky and an apple tree grows. Or, I figure, the completely biodegradeable material is better off *not* in a landfill.

Trash - paper or whatnot? THat goes in a bag in my car, which is disposed of when my wife gets on my case about it.
posted by notsnot at 11:44 AM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've been to the movie theater with multiple people at multiple times who've explained to me they just leave popcorn bags and crap all over the floor because there's someone whose job it is to pick it up. When I pointed out that it wasn't really hard to carry the bag/cup to the trash on the way out, I got blank looks or mockery. When I picked up the litter, they made fun of me, and some of them actually got angry (I wasn't judgmentally saying anything, I was just absentmindedly cleaning up like you'd do after a small child). This makes me think that my friends/acquaintances knew that this was not *really* appropriate behavior, but for some reason continued to do it. So...the stated justification is "there's someone who cleans up here," but I think there was a deeper underlying justification.
posted by wending my way at 11:45 AM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


there is also the anonymity aspect to it as well. in college i lived in a residential tower where people would throw their trash out the windows onto the roof below. unfortunately the window next to my bed looked right out onto that roof and thus my view (and the accompanying smell) was an unofficial garbage dump. upon complaining to to head of the dorm, the offending units above me were lectured and the garbage window dumping lessened. not ended, just lessened. some people still thought they could get away with it, or just didn't care so long as they were not caught in the act.

as for smokers - one of these days i'm going to snap and pick up that filthy butt you dropped on the ground and come after you like a raving lunatic. watch out!
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 11:48 AM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think they just think it's what people do; that everybody litters, so why would they not?
posted by mskyle at 11:53 AM on February 22, 2012


"Some people are just assholes" has always been an explanation I accepted. But nthing that there isn't any real Thought Process as such; more like, the absence of one in the face of pure selfishness and "not my problem any more" self-absorbtion.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:56 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I once asked a smoker if she considered throwing her cigarette butts on the sidewalk and street to be littering. She did not, because she did not consider them to be the same as other "bigger" garbage.

This is true. I just realized I think in the same way unless there is a plethora of available garbage cans handy - which isn't true of every urban space in the world.

As for culture, there's that, both first adn third world but this thread has made me wonder if conditioning too is not a big part of it.

I have noticed this in myself after I've been in a place which has abundant adn convenient trash cans, clean streets and an obvious no littering environment (Singapore for eg) that I then start to get stressed out if I can't find a bin in some other city which isn't quite as worked up about it. Otoh, while people pee on the streets of Helsinki, we're all conditioned to sort and recycle garbage so I find myself getting antsy in Singapore where the facilities aren't geared towards that outcome.

Systems can be designed therefore to enable this behaviour.
posted by infini at 12:06 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm having a hard time figuring out what the inner dialog concerning littering might be

Most people have no inner dialogue. This may explain a great number of things for you.
posted by cmoj at 12:06 PM on February 22, 2012 [25 favorites]


I've seen people emptying the ashtrays in their car into the gutter. I've had friends--while I was in the car!--casually put an empty styrofoam drink cup on the ground before getting in. I once saw a woman get out of her running car to put trash on a nearby electrical box at a red light. I simply cannot fathom this. Admittedly, when I was young I remember (to my shame) dropping empty wrappers during recess because I thought the "don't give a damn" attitude seemed cool. I now pick up other people's litter regularly because it makes me feel better about sharing the earth with these people, and wash my hands afterward. I've learned to let it go.
posted by therewolf at 12:11 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


[Folks, we're okay with this slightly chatty question but please stick to answering the question? Thank you.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:27 PM on February 22, 2012


Their radius for NIMBY is just really, really small. Small brain and all that...
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:35 PM on February 22, 2012


I agree with the relatively unsophisticated explanations above - people have something they don't want, they drop it on the floor, and then don't have it. But I think that this is further reinforced by many people's disgust towards "rubbish". I don't have a problem with putting a food wrapper or whatever in my bag and taking it home, but for some people the wrapper is now "trash" and there is a repulsion to mixing trash with the "clean" things that are in their bag, or holding onto a piece of "disgusting rubbish".
posted by Jabberwocky at 12:41 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Years ago, when I was running around Green Lake in Seattle with a girlfriend, some guy laughing and swimming near the shore with his girlfriend threw out a beer bottle which smashed on the paved path about 30ft. ahead of us.

I ran over to the edge of the lake and told him to get the hell out out of there and clean that up and he did, while I stood over him.

The whole scene really upset my girlfriend, though, and as we ran on she gave me a sidelong glance and said "who made you Boss of the World?" "Patsies like you, I guess", I said, because I was still pretty charged up.

In hindsight, I think she was more right than I was, and I'm not sure what the right thing to do in that situation would have been.

On the other hand, when I was 18 I had a summer job with the Forest Service as part of a crew of 5 surveying and putting in stakes for trail development in the Collegiate Peaks area of Colorado, and first week on the job, the crew foreman, an ex ranch hand in his 50s, rolled down the window of our pickup, threw out an empty cigarette pack and said "fuck the ecology", which really bothered me, but the best I could manage was a feeble "and I'm sure 'the ecology' will return the favor one of these days", but it was more than enough to make him hate me for the rest of the summer.

I don't know what I should've done there, either.

In short, people's littering behavior is a quagmire I try to steer clear of, these days.
posted by jamjam at 12:42 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I worked as a litter-picker for a local council for a few months, covering areas ranging from rather posh to impoverished. I've seen a lot of litter. One particularly memorable part of my round was the block of flats where people would throw their used condoms out of the window into the street. This was probably more effort than disposing of them normally. Rock and Roll lifestyle echo, maybe.

Some people are just slobs, either knowingly or just from having ignorance and selfishness passed on to them from their family, but they do seem to rationalise it. I would see people drop litter, notice me, and then get defensive.

The strangest rationalisation comes from a few people who have a low income and use abuse of public facilities such as street cleaning and bin collection to act out fantasies of lording it over other people. They expect their servants to do things for them: "I pay your wages, you pick it up, it's what I pay you for." They seem to enjoy other people trying to clear up after them, and will also complain that it hasn't been done well enough despite being the ones who caused it *GRITS TEETH*

An alternative rationalisation is the "it gives people jobs" argument. I don't think lack of litter has caused many job losses - we could have got by with an awful lot less rubbish.
posted by BinaryApe at 12:48 PM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Apart from people who may be emigres from localities where tossing trash on the ground is perfectly socially acceptable (and I actually pretty much only witness people who appear to be white and native speakers of English littering in my US city, which has lots of international residents, but) I think the people who litter are either a) narcissistic, in that they think the world revolves around them and someone else will pick up after them, or b) absent-minded, in that they forget that the trash will not magically vanish once it leaves their hand/car/pocketbook/backpack.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:52 PM on February 22, 2012


I'm going to give a stab at actually answering this, having spent a lot of time having long conversations about just this.

Re cigarette butts: the only way, short of field-stripping the cigarette, to be entirely sure that the butt is "out", thus emitting no sparks, is to drop it on the ground and then grind it out. Field-stripping the cigarette involves rolling it between your fingers until all the tobacco and sparks are gone (but still littering them) and putting the now-clean butt in your pocket.

In smoking-friendly culture, you will see "butt cans", or receptacles for the disposal of cigarettes. In those cultures, you will see more people putting the cigarettes in the "proper" place for them.

When I smoked, I would field-strip or grind-out, because not starting a fire was way higher up the priority scale than not littering. This wasn't because I thought someone else would clean up after it-often I and a group of my fellow smokers would end up policing up the area by picking up the bare butts one by one. Field-stripping, I think was fairly tame in comparison.
posted by corb at 12:55 PM on February 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


An alternative rationalisation is the "it gives people jobs" argument. I don't think lack of litter has caused many job losses - we could have got by with an awful lot less rubbish.

Interesting side anecdote here... During the 90s when Japan was in a financial crisis they had a sharp rise in the homeless population where people were living in parks. This created a problem because they were cleaning up the parks and the public works employees increasingly had little to do. I can't imagine a similar outcome in the United States.
posted by dgran at 12:57 PM on February 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


I think sometimes the issue can be one of disagreement over what constitutes litter. Once a friend went ballistic on me bc i threw an apple core out the window well into the grassy underbrush along a highway. I was incensed! Litter is stuff like plastic and shoes not biodegradeable fruit pits. She disagreed and we never have come to agreement on this issue. I think she is ridiculous but i humor her by not throwing peach pits or apple cores into the forest when she is around. Whatever.
posted by TestamentToGrace at 12:58 PM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I recall reading something that approached this question from a slightly different angle: people in two neighborhoods in the same city, one with a litter problem and one without a litter problem, were asked what they thought accounted for the difference. The way I remember it is that the people in the unlittered neighborhood generally thought that the people in the littered neighborhood littered more, while the people in the littered neighborhood thought that the people in the littered neighborhood littered the same amount as them but that the city cleaned it up. Which just confirms what people have been saying throughout this thread.

I may be getting that wrong, of course, because I don't remember where I read it. In fact, I have a suspicion that it was in Freakonomics, which would cast doubt on the accuracy of the whole story.
posted by baf at 1:00 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, I chime in on it weirdly, being a cleanliness option for some. Sure, few people mind gum wrappers in their pockets-but what about used banana peels? And as previous posters have noted, is it really littering if it's biodegradable-especially if the alternative is bagging it up and taking it to the dump?

One thing I personally will do that may ping as littering for some: if I am done with food and am planning to throw it away, I will often place it on a clean ledge near but not in the trash can, so that someone else can eat it without having to dig through the trash. But we also have a huge homeless population here.
posted by corb at 1:02 PM on February 22, 2012


I once asked a smoker if she considered throwing her cigarette butts on the sidewalk and street to be littering. She did not, because she did not consider them to be the same as other "bigger" garbage.

I've spoken about this with several friends who are smokers, and in every case they told me that cigarette butts "break down in 3-5 days" and so are not litter. When I pointed out that it's very common for cigarette butts to last weeks without breaking down (and pointed to the butts littering the ground around us, that couldn't possibly have only been 3-5 days old) they acted like it was a shocking revelation.

People believe what's convenient for them to believe until you stuff it down their throats.

I've been to the movie theater with multiple people at multiple times who've explained to me they just leave popcorn bags and crap all over the floor because there's someone whose job it is to pick it up.

This isn't littering. I also used to clean up my stuff at the movie theater, but that was before I worked as an usher for 4 years.

I can't tell you how many times I'd go to clean the theater after the movie and find an overflowing trashcan with soda and popcorn all over the CARPET and thought to myself, "Why can't you assholes just LEAVE IT ON THE CONCRETE AND LET ME CLEAN IT UP INTELLIGENTLY??!!!"

Now I just leave my trash behind TO make the ushers' lives easier (besides, cleaning the theaters was always kinda fun -- the shit you find is amazing).
posted by coolguymichael at 1:07 PM on February 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


An alternative rationalisation is the "it gives people jobs" argument.

This. A lot of times it's boorishness, but I've known working-class people who genuinely believe this in a sort of "paying it forward" way.
posted by crapmatic at 1:10 PM on February 22, 2012


I remember as a teenager, I went to the beach with my parents and my dad buried the litter in the sand, 4 metres away from a bin. I was absolutely horrified. Even now, I feel 'wrong' if I litter. There are no bins on the London Underground at all and I find it really hard to ignore that feeling and leave a wrapper on the train (I'm not always carrying something I can dispose of things into).

Other people don't get that stab of conscience, I guess. I always rush to get the first empty seat on the train (I'm dyspraxic and standing up on a moving vehicle is really really difficult) which others may consider awfully rude.
posted by mippy at 1:21 PM on February 22, 2012


She did it because she was trashy, and took little responsibility for her actions. She had impulse control issues.

I wanted to emphasize devymetal's observation. A lot of people have little understanding or care about how their actions affect anybody else, and take little responsibility for their actions. There's definitely a culture of "not my fault" "not my problem" in the world.

Anyways, you'll notice that not everybody thinks a step ahead. They think only about immediate results. When dropping litter, the immediate result is now their problem is gone. It doesn't even occur to them that there are other effects to their actions. People just don't think their actions through, in every part of their lives, not just when it comes to littering. In other words, some people are just genuinely stupid.
posted by jabberjaw at 1:24 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


The "Don't Mess with Texas" is a very successful anti-littering campaign and a lot of research went into creating it, raising awareness, and monitoring its continued effectiveness. Here's a page with the research results which you can review at your leisure.

My memory (from about 10 years ago when someone presented it to a group I was in) is that they did market research and found that there are cohorts of people who never littered, people who rarely littered and those who littered a lot. Many of the people in that latter group were young men, a lot who were particularly prone to litter by throwing stuff out of their trucks.

They used a norm-based persuasion model, which, rather than addressing individual behaviors, tried to change group norms. For example, they found that young men admired and wanted to emulate Dallas Cowboy team members, so some of the early ads had highly recognizable football players handing trash back to young men and saying the tag line of the campaign.
posted by jasper411 at 1:32 PM on February 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


I've often walked for blocks with an empty container in my hands looking for a bin to throw it in, but I've also dropped gum wrappers on the grounds and spit my gum into the bushes because I didn't want to swallow it (and there was nowhere else to put it). So, even those of us who were raised to believe that litter is BAD can and have littered (I've lived mostly in the suburbs - trash bins are scarce).

One day, a friend of mine took a half-full cup of soda out of his car and placed it right onto the parking lot in a Wal-mart and I asked him why, he told me that people get paid to clean the parking lot, why should he be bothered with finding a place to dump it? That had never occured to me before (He was from Tunisia if that makes any difference) but I saw the logic. I've never put trash in a store's parking lot, but it still sounds logical to me.
posted by patheral at 1:36 PM on February 22, 2012


In my part of the world, convict labor picks up a lot of the roadside litter. I've seen at least one person throw out a bottle about 1/4 mile before driving by the convicts (i.e. the convicts would be picking up his litter when they'd gone 1/4 mile more), and couldn't help wondering if it wasn't an FU to the inmates.

Mostly I think they just don't think/care. For all that we're supposed to think about our actions and be considerate, or so we were taught at church and/or school, many people just - don't. And I've never seen any way to reason with them that doesn't involve the risk of punishment.
posted by randomkeystrike at 1:38 PM on February 22, 2012


One of the strangest justifications I've ever heard for littering was from someone who said that anti-littering campaigns like "give a hoot - don't pollute" were just corporate propaganda to make the public to associate pollution with littering rather than with air and water pollution. And that littering showed you hadn't been brainwashed by this propaganda.
posted by zombiedance at 1:38 PM on February 22, 2012


From a MeFite who would prefer to remain anonymous:
As someone who is usually fastidious about not littering, it never really occurred to me that tossing a cigarette butt in the street was comparable to throwing trash out the window of my car. It seems obvious and somewhat shameful, now. Thanks for the wake-up call: butts go in the can from here on out. I'm guessing this means that for some folks (if not most), it's more due to thoughtlessness than malice at work.
posted by jessamyn at 2:06 PM on February 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


There were studies done in Denmark (link goes to a page Google Translated from the Danish original), which has a bad littering problem (I was extremely surprised by this, as we had chosen the country as a vacation destination due to its reputation as a great bicycle culture), and it was largely chalked up to lack of convenience that caused people to litter, especially from their cars. They have actually worked to deal with this by using more intelligent design tactics, like garbage cans you could throw your garbage into from a moving vehicle (for a design-focused company, the design of that website makes me squirm a little - you have to scroll to the right using the non-obvious bar above the black section).

I think that some of it also has to do with the whole idea that clutter attracts clutter - or litter attracts litter - if things are clean, people are less likely to want to be the person who makes them messy, but if they are already messy a little more mess won't hurt or change things that much.
posted by urbanlenny at 2:07 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Re cigarette butts: the only way, short of field-stripping the cigarette, to be entirely sure that the butt is "out", thus emitting no sparks, is to drop it on the ground and then grind it out.

That is fine and good but once the butt is fully out there isn't any reason not to pick the squished butt up and put it either in your pocket or back in the package. Not doing so is just rationalizing.
posted by Mitheral at 2:18 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I can't tell you how many times I'd go to clean the theater after the movie and find an overflowing trashcan with soda and popcorn all over the CARPET and thought to myself, "Why can't you assholes just LEAVE IT ON THE CONCRETE AND LET ME CLEAN IT UP INTELLIGENTLY??!!!"

Interesting! I was more or less raised to leave the garbage on the floor of the theatre. I remember very clearly as a kid stepping over everyone else's garbage on the way out of the theatre, too. It's just where it was supposed to go. At some point as an adult, it seemed to me just like not cleaning up my own table at a fast food joint (which I think is akin to littering) and I got really embarrassed and now my kid and I always do it. I cluck my tongue at those who do not!

I, too, am a litterer of pits, seeds and cores. But only if I'm somewhere earthy (not just grassy) where it can be hidden among bushes or the like. I am a reformed litterer of actual litter. Except maybe cherry pits, those I like to squeeze between my thumb and forefinger to propel them great distances, especially while waiting at isolated bus stops.

I remember the very last time I littered thoughtlessly, though. It was the summer after I had been on an overseas exchange, and I was walking with my best friend and her boyfriend, and dropped the wrapper of whatever I was eating on the sidewalk behind me. Boyfriend said "Oh, is littering part of the culture where you were?" (Western Europe, so, no.) I was mortified.

Now, when I'm walking along with my kid, neither of us litter. We are both, however, inclined to pick up crap we find along the way. Not cleaning up, collecting. She hasn't developed an eye for it, though, and a lot of the time what she picks up is just garbage. If there are other people around, I cannot feel OK about letting her just drop whatever piece of litter she picked up; instead, we end up carting it along until we find a bin. This is totally about not wanting other people to see me litter.

So, maybe the people who litter just haven't had the right kind of peer pressure. I would say our reformed butt-dropper above points to that, too!
posted by looli at 2:24 PM on February 22, 2012


[Folks - we need to maybe not argue with other people in this thread. Please feel free to take side conversation to MeMail. Thank you.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:25 PM on February 22, 2012


I also had a friend who was a smoker and would proclaim his disgust about the butts around smoking areas. But then he himself would drop his butt! He smoked hand rolled, though, and was convinced dropping that kind of butt was totally fine because it bio-degraded so quickly. People rationalize all kinds of stuff.
posted by looli at 2:26 PM on February 22, 2012


In my part of the world, convict labor picks up a lot of the roadside litter. I've seen at least one person throw out a bottle about 1/4 mile before driving by the convicts (i.e. the convicts would be picking up his litter when they'd gone 1/4 mile more), and couldn't help wondering if it wasn't an FU to the inmates.

Corollary anecdote: I either heard or read (possibly even here on MetaFilter) someone recalling a trip the southeastern U.S... they remarked to a local about one particularly filthy stretch of highway, and the local told them that people would deliberately litter there to make sure the convicts have plenty of work to do.

I think some of it has to be upbringing. Seeing people litter fills me with genuine rage, and I have to attribute that to being taught from childhood that it's a fundamentally dickish thing to do even if someone else gets paid to clean up after me. Sort of like wiping down and busing my own table at a fast food restaurant; it's not expected, but what kind of slob leaves crumbs, ketchup, and napkins all over the place instead of taking the extra 5 seconds to clean up?

But ultimately I think it boils down to "Apes gonna ape."

See also: "I know that Mad Men prides itself on being a faithful representation of the early 60s [...] so I'm curious if blatant littering, like it appears in this episode, was common practice back then?"
posted by usonian at 2:26 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I once asked a friend of mine why she littered (ice cream cone wrapper and napkin, tossed into the gutter in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn back in the mid-90s). Her answer was that the street-sweepers clean the streets so to her, it was the same as throwing it in a garbage can. She also mentioned that the city was so filthy, it didn't really matter.
posted by Majorita at 2:49 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's cultural. Americans, or many Americans, are slobs who don't respect public places.

It's too bad, but it's just the truth.

I live in Japan, where this is much more rare. My Japanese wife even once got really mad at me for, get this, emptying out my cup of black coffee on the road. Not the cup itself, just the coffee, which would evaporate in 5 minutes and leave no mark. And she got mad at me for this.

So, yeah: culture.
posted by zachawry at 2:49 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I often have the urge to pick up the offending piece of trash and throw it out myself, but worry that will just give the litterer the satisfaction of seeing someone else clean up after them, and make the situation even worse. Is this crazy?

Not at all; I do it myself all the time. Like, nearly every week multiple times. I also - if I don't think I'm gonna get the shit beaten out of me - sometimes tap the person on the shoulder, and say "excuse me buddy, you dropped your wrapper" and then point at it, not accusingly, but more "helpfully" with an innocent assumption that it was an accident. The force of social mores has typically meant people get embarrassed and apologise and then pick the rubbish up - though as I say, I only use it judiciously, there are plenty of people who care not a whit for mores and would probably say "eff you!" before punching me in the face.
posted by smoke at 2:50 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


An alternative rationalisation is the "it gives people jobs" argument.

This is actually a named fallacy in economics, called the "Broken Window Fallacy" (not to be confused with the "Broken Windows Theory" of crime prevention).

The fallacy comes from a parable about someone whose son breaks a window. The father argues that his son has actually made things better in his town, because breaking a window create work for the glazier (who, in some versions of the story, then uses the money to pay the baker, who pays the butcher, etc...)

But it is a fallacy. You don't make society on the whole better off by making things worse. You could create lots of jobs by going around smashing windows, or by burning down houses, or, yes, by littering. But those actions reduce the wealth of a society, they do not increase it.
posted by ManInSuit at 2:57 PM on February 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


One of the only times I have littered was on Whitehall in London after I had been walking for about an hour to find a bin. Turns out they'd all been removed because they are apparently a 'terror threat', so the MoD an empty can of Sprite deposited outside.

Similarly, they have no bins at railway stations now for the same reason, it drives me insane.
posted by knapah at 3:04 PM on February 22, 2012


Ironically, someone I knew used to field-strip his cigarettes so they wouldn't ignite trash bins. However, if he could not find a convenient receptacle, he'd flick them away to the ground because he didn't want the spent cigarette butt stinking up his pockets (or his car, if he were driving).

As for the other garbage people throw on the street, I'd have to chip in with the reasoning that people just don't care. It's a problem for someone else to manage, so long as they stay out of the way.

And in regards to confronting people who litter, bear in mind that there are individuals who will treat it exactly as that, because they believe you are passing judgment on them and their actions. A good number I think may be contrite, but in my personal experience, people who litter often don't limit their garbage-throwing to just material goods.
posted by CancerMan at 3:12 PM on February 22, 2012


I never litter, except -- I used to drop my gum in the parking lot when it was convenient. I'm not sure why, but it just didn't register in my head as litter. Clearly everyone else did it -- there was gum all over the place. I rarely chewed gum after my teens, so it didn't really come up often after that, but two things made me stop completely: First, my husband saw me do it and reacted with horror (shaming works!); Second, I was reading a looooong municipal government report (I'm so cool!) about garbage costs, and there was a big breakdown of what gum on sidewalks costs cities to clean up. I was appalled.

I have seen people pull up at red lights and start just tossing trash out the open window -- it was just a housekeeping chore they were doing while waiting at the red light and had some free time! Always teens and young 20-somethings.

I know a number of people who toss apple cores and other fruit detritus in grassy highway medians or in overgrown bushes (not in parks or tended plantings), on the theory it'll decompose and there are scavenger animals that'll eat it. That doesn't really bother me, though I don't do it myself.

"I've spoken about this with several friends who are smokers, and in every case they told me that cigarette butts "break down in 3-5 days" and so are not litter. When I pointed out that it's very common for cigarette butts to last weeks without breaking down (and pointed to the butts littering the ground around us, that couldn't possibly have only been 3-5 days old) they acted like it was a shocking revelation."

Also point out to these people that ingesting ONE cigarette butt can send a toddler to the hospital, and toddlers pick up all kinds of crap off the group and stick it right in their mouths. People who drop butts at playgrounds are the worst.

posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:22 PM on February 22, 2012


I spent my entire childhood and much of early adulthood trying to convince my dad to stop littering. It was easier to get him to stop smoking for a few weeks than it was to get him to stop throwing his trash out the car window. His excuse was generally, "There are people paid to pick it up, what's the big deal?" He's also a pathologically sloppy person, by which I mean he has a strong need to try to exert some control over his own environment by rejecting others' need for neatness and order, so that may be part of it, too. The ONLY reason he doesn't litter anymore? He does landscape work on public areas now, and is the one who has to clean up other people's litter off his hard works.

I will admit to willfully littering a couple of times, myself. In all instances I was in a place with no trashcans, a little drunk, and disproportionately upset that there were no trashcans--especially since there are no trashcans in this place to discourage people from bringing food and drink into the area and therefore making a mess. It makes no sense! So I have, in a state of drunken defiance, left my straw wrapper or crumpled shopping bag on the floor of a Bay Area Rapid Transit station or vehicle. I'm not proud. I seriously doubt most other litterers are that deliberate about it, though.
posted by rhiannonstone at 3:36 PM on February 22, 2012


Also, another: the only thing I have ever left outside of its proper receptacle was pop bottles and cans, so as to make it easier for the binners to get them and return them for deposit. It's fairly normal practice to do this in Vancouver, and the garbage cans downtown actually have little holders at the front for these (although lots of people seem think that they are regular recycling spots or cupholders and leave their empty coffee cups in them).
posted by urbanlenny at 3:57 PM on February 22, 2012


Same deal with shopping carts. Put them back in the corral, people, not wherever happens to be handy.
posted by notyou at 4:07 PM on February 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


When I lived in a mostly-immigrant neighborhood in Queens, the trash cans on the street would be overflowing and people would toss shopping bags of garbage onto the pile, or somewhere near the trash can, or just drop stuff on the corner and walk away.

One theory I heard about why people would litter that way is that their landlords wouldn't let them use the trash cans in their buildings, as they had illegal apartments -- this I know is true, I could see them -- and thought the garbagemen would report them to the city.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:18 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Have you ever tried to estimate how many people had to litter in order for you to see the degree of litter you observe? I'm not a statistician, but I imagine it could be worked out. I used to do this with the chewing-gum spots on the floors of NYC subway stations or your average city sidewalk. Since the spots can't easily be picked up and they don't blow away, they stay where they lie till the city makes an effort to clean them off.

It would only take one person a day dropping their gum, or even less frequently, for the spots to accumulate.

So the number of litterers may be fewer than you think, unless you actually see many people doing it.

I also think the littering is worse when people can't see what they are dropping (either it is dark, as in movie theaters, or they are in cars and just passing through). As for the gum-spitters, they probably believe the myth that swallowing gum will block your intestines.

However, I have occasionally thrown trash (soda cans) into storm drains when no trash can was nearby.
posted by bad grammar at 4:40 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


One theory I heard about why people would litter that way is that their landlords wouldn't let them use the trash cans in their buildings, as they had illegal apartments -- this I know is true, I could see them -- and thought the garbagemen would report them to the city.

I, too, live in a mostly-immigrant neighborhood in Queens. There are apartment buildings at either end of my block with open trash cans for anybody to use. Nevertheless the block is covered with garbage -- I sweep the sidewalk daily. I have started standing on my lawn glaring at people as they walk by.
posted by zvs at 4:52 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


As someone who is usually fastidious about not littering, it never really occurred to me that tossing a cigarette butt in the street was comparable to throwing trash out the window of my car.

Where I live, all the storm drains empty into the lake. People who would never throw their butts into the lake will happily toss them into the street, even though it amounts to the same thing. I've heard the "biodegradable" excuse from people as well, even though cigarette butts are made of plastic and take a decade to fall apart, even in the local waterways (not to mention the toxins they leach). Weirdly, on the other side of things you have people who complain about having to move their cars for street cleaning, when the purpose for that is to keep crap in the gutter from getting into the drains, and therefore the lake and the bay. Basically, people don't like to be inconvenienced, and they don't like to think too hard about stuff. I imagine it's also sometimes satisfying to throw shit in the street.
posted by oneirodynia at 5:08 PM on February 22, 2012


An interesting exception to the littering thing is cities like NYC where people just pile their trash in the streets, and it is picked up every night. Hard to say what the line between littering and putting garbage where it goes is in that case.
posted by gjc at 6:48 PM on February 22, 2012


While littering on the street is one thing, I do leave trash on the floor of the movie theatre and I do not bus my own table at fast food places (except Ikea). This is how I was raised. I grew up in a small town and jobs were hard to come by. If you went to put the popcorn bag in the trash or the tray on the counter, you were taking a job away from someone. And doing the work of someone who could be employed to do that work was a terrible, almost sinful, thing to do.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 8:12 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


My former employer has two large bins just outside the front doors. At a guess I'd say they put out one fire per week, maybe more, due to hot cigarettes being thrown in with the other trash. It drives the maintenance staff nuts, especially since there is a specially shaped sand filled cigarettes only receptical about a foot away. I can certainly see a couple of close calls of this type convincing a smoker that it's safer to put butts on the ground. (Not condoning, just rationalizing, mind you.)
posted by anastasiav at 8:17 PM on February 22, 2012


I work for a municipality, and we:

A) Have an entire "Kick Butt" campaign solely devoted to convincing people not to litter spent cigarettes,
B) Invested in countless "Cigarette Butts Are Litter" signs, and
C) Actually have a program where you can report litterers' license plates and descriptions, and a "dude, don't litter" letter goes out to them. Phone calls and online reports are both accepted.

My conclusion has been that no one thinks about this at all until you get in their face about it - and it's a lot more effective if you get in their face when they're still under 3' tall. I have reported a person for tossing a cigarette butt out their car window less than three feet from the "Cigarette Butts Are Litter" sign. Argh.
posted by SMPA at 8:21 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


From a different culture, Japan is pretty mixed when it comes to garbage. After the sarin attacks in '95, garbage cans disappeared from public spaces, under the idea that Aum could have used them (note, they did not) in the attacks. They started to make a comeback, then 9/11 happened, and suddenly they went away again. However, (and this is definitely changing) litter didn't suddenly explode. A lot of people ended up just carrying their trash home to dispose of it there.

Currently, garbage cans are more available, but with public transport, garbage cans are only typically available inside stations, though most convenience stores have them out front. The main thing? Cigarette butts everywhere. Japan Tabacco has been running adds and hyping portable ashtrays (like a fireproof coin purse for ashes and butts), but they're not widely used, and I've fantasized about printing out posters asking if the cigarette butt should be made the prefectural flower.

Location and activity makes an impact. Movie theaters in Japan are spotless. The last movie I went to was packed, and a guy came in, saw that his seat was stained/wet/eww, and mentioned it to an usher. Because it was so crowded, they couldn't move him, so they ended up replacing the seat during the trailers. Baseball games end with a request for people to pick up their garbage, with plenty of places for garbage. People pitch in and help clean.*

On the other hand, beaches in Japan are disgusting. Cigarette butts, empty cans, empty bottles, abandoned beach mats, empty plastic containers, left behind by people of all ages. Loudspeakers run a repeating request to dispose of garbage properly, but almost no one does. Honestly, comparing the baseball stadiums and the beach, having a staff member at the exits holding open a garbage bag as people walk out, versus a couple banks of garbage cans located around the beach (and the direct eye contact from said staff member) makes a hell of a difference.

I had the opportunity to go to the final home game of my local team a couple years ago. A well loved player was retiring, and it was the last game of his long career. We sat in the general seating, where the diehard fans go, and lined up hours before the game to get good seats. We were given old newspapers to divide into squares to be thrown as confetti after the game when the guy took his victory lap. At the end of the game, so much newspaper was thrown into the air that it blocked out the sun momentarily. Great fun was had. Then, after the moment had passed, members of the fan club came up with garbage bags, and we all helped clean up. I can't even imagine this happening anywhere, even in Japan, outside of a Japanese baseball stadium.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:23 PM on February 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


I can't believe no one has mentioned this. Some cars, especially rentals, no longer have ashtrays.
posted by desjardins at 8:25 AM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


High-minded anti-gentrification activists.
posted by null14 at 6:10 PM on February 25, 2012


I think sometimes the issue can be one of disagreement over what constitutes litter. Once a friend went ballistic on me bc i threw an apple core out the window well into the grassy underbrush along a highway. I was incensed! Litter is stuff like plastic and shoes not biodegradeable fruit pits. She disagreed and we never have come to agreement on this issue. I think she is ridiculous but i humor her by not throwing peach pits or apple cores into the forest when she is around. Whatever.

I don't know if it was part of her argument, but I don't find it ridiculous at all. Throwing food that people consume into the woods doesn't NOT have an effect - it draws animals closer to the road, and therefore increases their chance of being roadkill. Besides that, it allows them a steady stream of unhealthy food that might not be there always. Even littering apple cores is bad for the environment, just not in the way you might be thinking about.
posted by agregoli at 9:02 AM on February 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


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