Name and Shame Litterbug Stores

Yonkers, New York is dirty. It’s where I live, and there is literally trash everywhere - every gutter, every forest, every highway. Most of it has a corporate logo. This article is a proposal to motivate (name, shame, blackmail) stores to pick up after their customers.

It’s not that the stores are responsible for the litter. Maybe so. Maybe not. But they can be held accountable. Littering is a problem of economic externalities: I might throw a Burger King cup out my car window because it’s convenient for me and not my problem later. We don’t know the “price” suffered by others because of this littering, but it’s more than $0. One reasonable estimate of that price is whatever it costs to pick it back up again - say $1. If I could be forced to pay $1 for throwing that cup out my window, my littering would be…job creation.

That point brings us back to the corporations. I don’t care whose fault the littering is. I just don’t want to see it. I’ll never ID the schmuck whose Chipotle bag is blowing in the wind, but I know where she bought it. Maybe we can get that store to clean it up and pass the price on to their (filthy uncivilized) customers.

So here’s the plan:

  1. Gather photography with a geo-tag. Maybe a phone app (like Litterati), maybe drone footage, maybe Google Street Views.
  2. Run photos through image recognition software to detect company logos.
  3. Create a map of where trash was found, broken out by company.
  4. Obtain a map layer with business establishment locations, perhaps from Dun & Bradstreet or Google Maps.
  5. Comparing 3 & 4, analyze the trash diffusion patterns for different types of stores for a dynamite academic publication.
  6. Build and maintain a website with statistics of how stores are affecting their neighborhoods’ cleanliness. Focus on big chains first because they are easy prey.
  7. Shame, shame, shame until the stores pay people to pick up their customers’ trash. Then praise, praise, praise for good corporate citizenship!

P.S. - I like this solution since it’s market driven. Maybe it’s cynical, but at least it’s capitalism. I don’t propose expanding government responsibility or power, and the companies would probably pick up the trash more efficiently than governments would. Currently, Yonkers makes token efforts to pick up litter. They send highly-paid union workers walking with no equipment besides a trash bag to half-ass trash pickup occasionally. I want to see McDonald’s efficiency applied to litter pickup!

Written on September 25, 2020