Littering in the District is about to become as costly to residents as it is to the environment.
New legislation, which would institute fines for littering, is currently being considered by the D.C. Council in an effort to conserve the environment and keep the city clean. These fines are the first of their kind in the District.
The new legislation, driven by Council Members Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) and Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), imposes a $75 fee for littering and a fee of $125 if the litter is dropped out of a vehicle. The legislation passed its first reading on Nov. 18 and will have its second reading on Dec. 2.
“If it passed on Dec. 2 on second reading, it would be a matter of a few months before it went to congressional review and became law,” Jonathon Kass, Council Member Graham’s deputy director of the Committee on Public Works and the Environment, said.
Littering has become a substantial problem in the District. According to The Washington Post, the D.C. Department of Public Works spends more than a third of its $75 million solid waste budget on litter removal.
any Georgetown students look forward to the positive effects this bill could have on our environment and on the cleanliness of the district.
“Keeping the city clean is a communal effort, and I find it very important for everyone to play his/her part. City pride should manifest itself in the desire for continual betterment and beautification,” Jonathan Cohn, co-president of EcoAction, said in an e-mail. “I think that the new littering laws really emphasize this point, i.e. that it is everyone’s job to keep the city clean and to be a steward of their environmental surroundings.”
EcoAction Treasurer Maggie Curme, has some concern that fines may not be enough to clean up our area.
“Fines are a good start, but what we really need is for people to be intrinsically motivated to keep the streets clean. But, as this can be a difficult and intangible thing to measure, perhaps fines are more realistic. Any efforts to cut down on waste and littering is good,” she said.
Some council members are concerned about one part of the legislation which includes a $250 fine for giving a false name when caught littering.
“Councilman Graham has raised some question as to whether [$250 for giving a false name] is an excessive fine,” Kass said.
Graham fears that the new fine may be too large for lower-income D.C. residents. However, Kass and many others find the fine appropriate, citing the deliberative nature of giving a fake name.
“There was some feeling this is not the kind of fine that you say, ‘Oops, I was speeding.’ This is something someone consciously does,” Kass said.
The Council is prepared to look more closely at the fine for falsifying information. Despite these disagreements, the legislation is an important step forward in helping improve the sanitation and environment of Washington, D.C.