Unfortunately, littering has become so common that most citizens don’t even notice it anymore. There have been many attempts to decrease littering — from school prevention programs to stricter laws and higher fines. Although they managed to temporarily reduce this bad habit, that’s not even remotely enough to call the problem solved.
I think I don’t have to explain why littering is wrong. Not only does it pollute our one and only planet, but it also ends up costing us a lot of money. The United States spends around $11.5 billion on trash disposal and cleanup every year.
In this day and age, it’s important to be environmentally conscious, even if it means having to confront somebody because of it. And if littering affects you and your surroundings directly, all the more reason to take action.
Personally, I’ve had this issue in the past. My neighbors kept dumping their garbage in my yard for years. They didn’t seem to care at all that it was my property and that I wanted it as clean as possible. I found that to be rude and disrespectful, not to mention incredibly irresponsible. I couldn’t sleep until I finally managed to stop them from dumping trash on my lawn.
If you have reckless neighbors of your own, this article will help you. I’ll tell you how to deal with littering neighbors and actually succeed at it. It’s time to finally start taking things into your own hands and raise awareness of littering!
Things You Should Know Before Getting Started
First of all, you should be fully equipped with patience and persistence. Although your initial reaction may include anger and the desire to argue with the neighbors right away, you should refrain from that. Instead, it’s better to keep a straight head and talk to them calmly.
And if that doesn’t work, the best way to deal with littering neighbors is to catch them in the act using an outdoor security camera and report it to the local authorities.
Also, you should do some research on the topic. For instance, you should get familiar with the local laws regarding littering. That way, when you talk to the neighbors or the authorities, you’ll have something to stand behind.
As far as materials are concerned, for this tutorial, you’ll need:
- a sign (“No littering,” “Under video surveillance,” etc.) and
- an outdoor security camera.
How to Stop Your Neighbors from Littering
Here are some steps you can take to prevent your neighbors from littering once and for all:
Step 1. Put up a “No Littering” sign.
Although it may seem simple or silly, a “No littering” sign can be a good place to start. Besides, you don’t need much money or effort to pull it off. Just make it big enough and place it in a convenient spot, and you’ll be good.
You can also write, “Thank you for not littering,” which is essentially just a nicer way of saying the same thing. I always say — go with the nicer way first, then go with the harder one if things don’t turn out the way they should. It’s up to you, though.
Obviously, don’t expect miracles to happen. A sign is not going to stop careless litterers. Most people will either miss the note or simply disregard it.
On the other hand, people who have at least a bit of conscience and compassion will see the sign and decide not to dump their trash there after all. And people who don’t, well… Even jail wouldn’t stop them, let alone some warning.
Also, in case you have an outdoor security camera, you can put up a sign that says, “Under video surveillance.” That alone should be enough to deter potential litterers. What’s more, if you catch them breaking the law, you can sue them.
Step 2. Come face-to-face with the neighbors.
Nothing is more effective than actually confronting the person who’s littering on your property. However, it is also by far the most difficult, and it requires quite a lot of effort and patience.
It’s better if you meet with your neighbors in person, as they’ll have an obligation to look you in the eye and actually listen to what you’re saying. But, as I said earlier in the text, I think you should start off by being nice.
Simply ask to talk to them for a minute, ask them politely to stop littering, and thank them for their time afterward. Most people will appreciate the courtesy and find your concern valid.
And if you start off on a bad note, they will most likely get defensive and begin arguing. And that’s not going to bring anyone any good, nor is it going to stop them from littering. In fact, they might continue doing it just to spite you. Still, these situations are rare, and they can be easily avoided by having an honest adult conversation.
Step 3. Put up a fence and lock the area.
In case you don’t have a fence yet, you should definitely get one. It will prevent any trespasser from getting in, and therefore, your pesky littering neighbors as well. If they can’t get in, they can’t throw trash on your property — it’s as simple as that. Also, don’t forget to lock the doors/gates.
However, before you go out and build a fort around your house, you should check out the local laws regarding fences (their height, positioning, safety, etc.). For instance, it’s illegal to put up a fence that blocks your neighbors’ view.
And if the law prevents you from making any kind of fence, an outdoor security camera should definitely do the trick.
Step 4. Install an outdoor security camera.
Unfortunately, even if you confront your neighbor directly, there’s a high chance that they won’t admit any wrongdoing. However, if you have video evidence of it, you’ll be having an entirely different conversation.
Install an outdoor security camera in your yard or next to the dumpsters, depending on where the littering usually happens. If you invest a bit more, you can get a wireless outdoor camera system that activates when it detects motion. Also, you’ll be able to monitor everything from your phone or computer.
Just the sheer presence of a security camera or an “Under video surveillance” sign can scare litterers away. It’s easy for them to do it when nobody’s around, but when there’s a risk that they’ll be caught, most people will choose not to litter instead.
More importantly, if you catch litterers in the act, you’ll have concrete video evidence of the crime, which you can take to the police. They’ll act accordingly, and your problem will most likely be solved forever.
Still, I think you should talk to the neighbors first. And if they don’t stand to reason, you can justifiably take further legal action.
Step 5. Call the police.
Before you go ahead and call the police, make sure you’re acquainted with the law first. Littering penalties and fines are different in every state. Depending on the size and location of the litter, the penalties range from $50 fines to community service, and in rare cases, over $25,000 in fines. In some states (Missouri, for instance), littering is considered a Class A misdemeanor, and it can result in up to one year of imprisonment.
I don’t advise you to call the police right away. In my opinion, that should be your last resort, in case everything else fails and littering doesn’t stop.
Step 6. Call the local environmental protection agency.
Instead of the police, you can also contact your local environmental protection agency (or EPA). While they’re mostly focused on environmental emergencies and disease prevention, they also deal with violations of environmental laws and regulations. Their headquarters is in Washington, D.C., but they have regional offices all over the country.
When you notice litter in your yard, call the EPA right away. It’s best just to leave the trash there and have them dispose of it, especially if it involves strong chemicals and toxic waste. Litter presents a direct danger to the surrounding soil and water, and EPA knows exactly what to do with it. Besides, you don’t have to be the one doing the cleaning.
Here’s one last piece of advice — don’t stop fighting for the good cause, even if everyone around you seems to think it’s not important. We have only one planet, and we’re not going to be able to “buy a new one” if it gets too dirty (or in this case, polluted). Every cigarette butt, every beer can, every piece of gum you throw carelessly on the ground is just one step toward our doom.
So I urge you to spread awareness whenever you can. Whether it’s confronting your littering neighbors or volunteering to pick up the trash at your local park, anything you do for the environment is a step in the right direction.
If you found this article helpful, or if you have any similar experiences that you’d like to share with us, feel free to do so in the comments.
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