The Most Poisonous Insect on Earth
“Hi, thanks for taking my call” I began into the speakerphone while speeding down the highway on my way home from work, as the sun slowly retired behind the hills. I was winding between cars, tailing a black van with the words “Net A Porter” scrawled on the side. I snapped a photo of the license plate as it swerved into traffic, cutting an entire line of waiting cars.
“Hi, you’ve reached the customer service line, how can I help you?”
I blurted out that I had seen one of their drivers deliberately chucked their styrofoam cup out of their car window. I read her the license plate from the photo I had taken on my phone, and asked which action would be taken from my complaint. The woman on the other end of the line was extremely sympathetic to my plight, and assured me that steps would be taken to right the wrong that had been made.
This interaction presents a prime example of exactly how litter bugs should be reprimanded. And rest assured that I have taken similar, direct action when seeing it firsthand, and not trapped in a vehicle.
In the state of New Jersey, at least, littering is punishable by law. There is a fine up to 1,000 dollars in place for littering. When you police people, you are educating them and preventing them from potentially having to pay that fine in the future. Many of us know that when we stand idly by and say nothing in the face of injustice, or bullying, for instance, then we are endorsing it. We can apply the same logic to litter. Please enjoy the next three interactions for real stories of how one can handle a real life litter bug.
[Saw a nice elderly man placing a water bottle on the curb, and then getting back into his car ]
Me: “I think you dropped your water bottle sir”
Him: *blushing, picks water bottle back up and walks the 5 extra feet to a restaurant and asks them to dispose of it.*
[Walking through the streets of NY: Sees child struggling to put piece of garbage in the annoying NYC garbage cans, gets exasperated, throws it on the ground and walks away.]
Me: “Ah ah ah, that goes in the garbage (stern tone)
Him: *looks embarrassed, goes back to put garbage where it should go*
[Waiting for the PATH: A foreigner with luggage unwraps a pack of cigarettes and throws the plastic on the ground, right in front of where I am sitting. I dutifully pick the garbage up and pass it to him.]
Him: “Oh I don’t need that”
Me: “Oh I know, but that’s littering”
Him: “Oh, right” *stuffs it in his pocket*
In these scenarios, one can draw several conclusions
1. Raise your children correctly and make them feel incredibly ashamed if they don't dispose of garbage where it should be going.
2. You may have the greatest success by giving the individual the “out” of saying that they dropped it, rather than implying that they deliberately littered. So by handing it to them or pointing out they dropped it instead of outright scolding may be the best initial tactic.
3. Try to avoid the need to dispose of plastic bottles, packaging, and other garbage by striving for a zero or reduced waste lifestyle. There are tons of resources online, and ample substitutes exist for single use products that limit the need to throw things away.
If you see something, say something!