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Why do poor people litter more than rich?

Many will deny that there is a connection between income and litering but I have no doubt that many poor people simply don't care and choose to liter.
Recently my job has taken me literally all over the Portand area and I have made numerous eyewitness accounts of blatant litering, mainly in areas that some would described as less affluent. The other thing I noticed is that children litter a lot. When I was a child I recall the whole Keep Oregon Green thing and littering was just not done by my friends and I. In fact, as a Boy Scout I remember spending many a weekend picking up litter in my N. Portland neighborhood only to see it get trashed within weeks. This last week I spent in SW Portland and noticed that even the most major streets, except maybe for Barbur Blvd., are relatively litter free. What's the deal with income and littering?

income? 01.Jul.2007 14:02


I am not aware of any actual statistics on income and littering, but I am also a litter nut and have watched an area get 'trashed' within hours of my picking it up. However, I would not consider it an income issue. Across the street from me is a family with plenty of 'money', nice house, big fancy suv's, and the litter from just Them, blows all up and down our street. They (haha) Litter-ally, throw everything down on the ground.

I think it is education, personally. We no longer have an anti-litter campaign in portland. I see no signs posted regarding littering, and although I have not watched network tv for months, remember that the community message broadcasts about littering have all but stopped. Remember the crying indian? Where did those positive community type messages go?

However, in the past 5 months, of myself picking up litter on my adopted 7 blocks, I have seen it cleaner, in general. Some one else has been picking up also, as one particular bus stop/corner is being cleaned now, but not by me. And, I think if there is less litter to begin with, the litterbugs are less likely to litter. ie: education..this area does not already have tons of litter, so I am not going to throw my litter down.

I also see in movies people eating their product placements, and then next scene, the packaging has just 'disappeared'. I feel this gives the impression of an invisible garbage man to the common public, that we can just toss things we don't want on the ground, and someone else will come clean up the mess for us.

So, showing by example, not adding to the problem, and possibly trying to convince the city to start posting no-litter signs again, could be an easy answer to make Portland the most litter city in the nation. Or EACH of us can decide, from now on, to bend over and pick up litter when we see it and throw it in the nearest trash can. Or adopt a few block in our neighborhood to call our own.

Possibly, in the SW side, there are adopters? So the litter is happening, but is being removed? Giving the illusion that wealth creates personal responsibility for useless packaging?

Dude? Are you completely mad? 01.Jul.2007 14:14

Money Pollutes 911WasAnInsideJob@Cheney.com

You're going to sit there and tell me a SUV driving, MacMansion residing, globe-trotting, cellphone yapping, Starbucks sippin', gadget buyin', cloth buyin', consumer-bot pollutes less than a homeless person?

That's a laugh. Do you have any idea how much pollution one of those MacMansion's creates?

Or how much pollution is created by the business the consumer-bot is a part of and possibly the head of?

So a homeless man flicks his cigarette butt in the street while joe-business dumps tons of untreated waste into the Willamette River.

I don't think you've gotten over your Boy Scout brainwashing. You probably drove around town too. ha~ha~ha - I love the irony. Did you stop to dip your toe in the Willamette or the Columbia?

The so-called well-to-do are also promoting pollution by not questioning 9/11 and thus allowing this so-called endless war to continue. More depleted uranium, white phosphorous, death and destruction, loss of civil liberties, et cetera.

The so-called well-to-do ignored the exit polls like the sheep they are while the homeless in Oregon were not even allowed to vote.

Do a bit of thinking before you post next time.

Also 01.Jul.2007 15:00


Wealthier people also are more likely to ride jets, a huge source of pollution. And how many poor people own stock in Exxon, Anaconda, or some other industry whose products/byproducts pollute beyond any individual's capacity? What you more are looking at is habitat, and while living in a nice, clean habitat is a good thing, there is a difference between soiling that habitat with beer cans; etc. and flooding it with sewage and other industrial waste.

silly premise 01.Jul.2007 15:36


there is going to be more trash where there is more commercial zoning, especially restuarants and bars. i live off of alberta and it is very noticeable that there is a lot more litter than three years ago. i guess that's gentrification!

frankly, i think both rich and poor litter about the same. many people who litter think that if there's no garbage can nearby, they have license to litter. the one i love is the carefully placed litter -- left perched in a conspicuous place -- so when the people responsible for picking up other people's litter come by, their job is made easier. wtf???

gee einstein 01.Jul.2007 15:55

maybe you coulda come up with some of these yourself

Perhaps "rich people" are the only ones with the luxury to believe that all would be right with the world if it weren't for stray fast-food containers on the ground. Or perhaps it's their perception that the world is theirs and they're responsible for how it's all set up and what it ends up looking like. Perhaps it's that unhealthy people tend to be poor, statistically, live in poor neighborhoods, and have less ability or energy to pick up stray crap that their neighbors accidentally drop in the street when they get in and out of their cars. (For some reason lots of people of all income levels treat their vehicles like trash cans.) Perhaps it's that poor people are not trying to impress you with how nice our neighborhoods are, or to elevate property values that will just be used as an excuse to raise our rents. That's just off the top of my head.

Personally, when I look around my neighborhood, the main thing that needs to be subtracted is not the trivial amount of trash, but the ubiquitous motor vehicles that took over our civilization and commenced pissing away our resources and sanity 60 years ago.

Anti-Gentrification Campaign 01.Jul.2007 16:21

some fool

Awhile ago, the Whiteaker neighborhood of Eugene had an active anti-gentrification campaign going. I had some serious issues with my comrades' choice of targets in some instances... the local health food store (well, the owner DID really suck for trying to get Icky's Teahouse closed), and Sam Bond's Garage, the local brew pub (they made a smart maneuver by starting to sell PBR alongside the $3.50/pint microbrew). It bugged me that these places were targeted while the 7-Eleven a block away, and a totally bourgeois restaurant on the same block (that served a veggie plate of black beans, rice and yams for $13.00) were left unscathed. One prong of the attack on gentrification was a littering campaign. The logic was that the neighborhood would be less appealing to gentrifiers if there was garbage strewn all over the streets. So strew, they did. I lived in the heart of that neighborhood at the time, and wasn't all that happy about the crap in front of my house. At the time, I thought it was one of the dumbest "actions" I had ever heard. This post warmed me to the tactic for the first time. My guess is that the original poster of this "story" won't be moving into one of those littered neighborhoods anytime soon.

Being neat and clean 01.Jul.2007 16:22

denizen of skid row

is not a high priority of someone who is drunk, crazy or high, regardless of income. Unfortunately, low-income addicts are forced to act out their lives mostly on the streets.

I agree with Money Pollutes. Everybody thinks of poor people as dirty criminals, when really it's just that they don't have fancy lawyers and spin doctors to cover it up. But when you look at the actual damage they do -- the *trillions* of dollars they steal, the *millions* of people they kill and screw over, the *millions* of acres they pollute, the fish they kill, the water they poison ... my God, the urban poor are pikers.

Its Not My Litter 01.Jul.2007 17:51


Garbage is everywhere
Wait till the price increase here in the Metro area in a year or so

I think that nice fancy yards tend to be "well kept" and paid for to stay clean
Compared to "poorer neighborhoods" where service are expensive and crowding, impacts the surroundings

here is a street in Portland that is never clean
The rich look down from their lofts right onto this
All walks of lives walk right past it..... rich and poor alike


my experience 01.Jul.2007 20:17

my eyes

When I moved to north portland many years ago, from inner se, I couldn't believe the amount of littering surrounding me. While it has certainly subsided given our recent takeover by hipster whities I still see, mostly blacks, throwing their garbage out onto the street. It's ignorance and it's a class issue, litter that is. Now as for corporate dumping and polluting , well that is a whole different story. white collar that is for sure.

Actually.... 01.Jul.2007 22:32


I did kind of an informal "study" of garbage/litter in a microcosm, quite by accident. And my findings do not support your conclusion that this is a "poor person" thing.

Like your assertion, this is pretty anecdotal. But here's what I noticed. This was back when the idiotic Jeff Meyers decided that the Children's Garden in downtown Portland was dangerous because homeless people might sleep there, or go potty or something. He said the area was being used as a litter box by poor people. So instead of putting up a porta potty or a waste basket, he had the garden razed and poisoned, and called it a victory. In a conversation I had with him about it, he said it was necessary because the garden had become "dangerous," and to underline this fact, he told me that syringes had been found there.

I don't remember the whole thing now, or how this led to me combing through the flotsam people leave as they travel through that area, but I think it started when I questioned why he didn't tear down city hall, since I had found a syringe on the step there once, or why not take down the Meade building, since I often found them in the doorway there. Then, I started wondering what kind of garbage and waste would be left in the swath along the freeway that used to be the children's garden, now that the garden was gone. So I made a point to go through there for something like 7 months, taking inventory of what might grow there, and what kind of garbage appeared there. I actually videotaped a lot of it. (...bored, I guess.)

Here's what I found. I discovered batteries and scratched CDs, walkman earphones, cigarette butts, perrier bottles, caps from soda bottles, a sheaf of papers that seemed to have been left over from some power point presentation having to do with development prospects. I found candy wrappers and chewed gum, and paper wrappers from deli sandwiches. Lots of urban tumbleweeds -- plastic bags from Whole Foods and Safeway and Fred Meyers. Straws and lids and starbucks cups. (Lots and lots and LOTS of Starbucks cups. More of them, I think, than anything else.) A pair of Addidas, a single sock (ew), and an empty beer can. (Foster's Lager.) I found a glasses case, a pair of broken sunglasses, and another time the lens from someone's sunglasses. A torn seat cover from someone's car, assorted nus and bolts, an empty oil can, and a broken sun visor. An abandoned bar glass. A tie. The contents of at least four ashtrays, tipped out of at least four peoples' cars and onto the ground. Bubble wrap. A screw driver. Apple cores (which, arguably, aren't really garbage, but compost). Broken lightbulbs. An extension cord. A shoe without a heel. A film cannister. Broken pencils, leaky pens, the stylus from a palm pilot. Paper clips. An empty ink cartridge from a printer. Three broken cell phones. A plastic spoon, a cardboard box or two, the paper backing from a bumper sticker. Business cards. A surprising collection of used condoms. An even more surprising collection of empty pill bottles -- over the counter models like bayer and tylenol and cough syrup bottles, and more intriguingly personal prescription bottles for ritalin and remeron and vicoden and percocet and diazepam and haldol and aricept and warfarin and donepezil. Crackly, clear wrappers for unnamed products long since extracted and tossed away. Broken bits of this and that, used christmas tree air fresheners (did you know those are really bad for your lungs?), rubber bands, and all manner of unrecognizable detritus from a mindlessly consumerist culture with nothing better to do than keep on buying shit none of us really needs.

This is only a small sampling of the things that were left there in what used to be the Children's Garden. Much of this trash seemed to be carelessly tossed from the windows or doors of cars that had been parked along the street. (Clearly, a swath of poisoned ground did not seem to inspire the same sense of sanctity that the garden had, as there is much more garbage here now than there ever was when the Garden grew there.)

The point of including this inventory here is that this is obviously not a poor person issue. It's just a human thing. Some of this garbage may very well have been left by the poor and sometimes homeless people who travel through there. But much more of it is decidedly affluent garbage. (How many poor people do you know who can afford to sling down a 5 spot for a latte from Starbucks?) Litter seems to be more prevalent in places people don't care about, and certainly it's less prevalent in places where people are paid to pick it up. So, for example, in downtown Portland the PBA conscripts poor people to wear yellow vests and pick up the garbage left all day by tourists and businessmen and the lunch crowds. But no resources are laid down for picking up garbage in the less affluent parts of town. Maybe that's what you are noticing. Not a class-correlation in littering, but an unequal distribution of the resources that are put into cleaning it all up.

Where's away? 02.Jul.2007 01:22


you're not throwing it "away" just into someone else's back yard.

the key is not to buy "trash".

trashy people are those who throw away a lot of trash. whether its going onto the sidewalk or to the dump a few miles away is irrelevant.

and if you're a rich americkkkan consumer, then you are the worst trashy trash on the planet.

hey i pick shit up in front of my house 02.Jul.2007 02:49

maybe not as often as you'd like

> "it's ignorance and it's a class issue"

indeed, but methinks you've got the sense of it backwards;

"ignorant upper-middle-class people think litter is a problem of great significance in the world,
poor people have other shit to worry about and know better than to sweat the small stuff"

I know! 02.Jul.2007 09:21

the answer


(1) indeed the poor litter more than the rich, and
(2) you have some kind of evidence, and
(3) we're anal-retentive enough to be discussing this,


I'd argue that it has to do with the fact that the rich, wherever they are, have an ash tray in their SUV, can stroll into any starfucks-clone unimpeded and toss out that pesky all-important litter in society-sanctioned receptacles. Does the homeless guy have this luxury?

On second thought, I think you're just a troll. Go get stuffed.

wow 02.Jul.2007 11:39


Hey Money Pollutes,

That was a serious string of political cliches! He said litter, not pollution. I think it is fairly obvious that
people that consume more are polluting more.

In my opinion, for what thats worth, the wealthy have disposable income to pay others to keep their world clean.
Same reason they have better teeth and lower rates of heart disease, they can afford it.

racist experience. 02.Jul.2007 23:08

ian wallace

"my experience" observes "mostly blacks, throwing their garbage out onto the street. It's ignorance and it's a class issue" And you just made it a race issue. Real nice. Maybe you just "see it" when African Americans do it, and notice it. Just like a white cop "sees" more crime being committed by African Americans, and judges just "see" more reasons to throw black lives away then white lives. Maybe your a racist. ignorance indeed.

As to a class issue, sure. To be clear, you can certainly find plenty of litter in Oregon's lily white poor back country.It's just spread out a little thinner.

I tend to work in richer parts of the city. Guess what? These people have very good city services, they have maids, they have gardeners, they have all sorts of services at their disposal. they pay people to clean up their mess. Theres also a lot fewer shitty fast food places in rich sections. Their entertainment and social arena are indoors, and/or at structured events. Working class people tend to use the streets and parks as a social areas, as they are free.

Regarding education levels. Sure, better schooling could impact ecological consciousness, but talk about pissing in the ocean. A decent education system that didn't simply reproducing the same classist, racist, and sexist bullshit would certainly go along ways towards fixing all sorts of problems. Poor neighborhoods are always more polluted then rich neighborhoods.

Poor neighborhoods have had less access to capital to improve the housing stock, more people are renters, and thus have no real vested interest in improving their land lords property. You get the short end of the city service stick. When you aggregate that, you certainly produce a lesser incentive towards generalized improvement (within the current social context)- stagnant or falling property values .

If you had a shitty slumlord that never maintained property, never responded to illegal dumping (often by companies or people that wish to avoid disposal fees), had poor city services (lack of trash cans, public toilets ect,) and saw no real incentive or support for your environment, would you "give a hoot"?

The line that separates littering from pollution is a very fine one. Fast food restaurants and mini marts should be held accountable for what happens to the packaging for their products. Why not put a 5 cent deposit on all packaging like we have on bottles? That would certainly keep it cleaner, by making the corporations that wrap every goddamn product they make in paper or plastic responsible for the total cost of their product. Think of it as a stop gap measure until we finally destroy capitalism, and all the impossible situations it puts people in.

The government cares less about poorer neighborhoods 03.Jul.2007 05:54

trash everywhere

Along the off-ramp and service road leading from I-5 to Alberta Street, there is always a bevy of trash. Once in the last 4.5 years since I've been living off Alberta crews actually cleaned up the trash. But otherwise it sits there and sits there, despite repeated requests that it gets put in their regular clean up schedule. But there's no such trash in NW off 23rd Avenue where you get on and off I-405.