Dear PoP – Are there littering laws in DC?

Photo by PoPville flickr user District Shots

“Dear PoP,

I recently moved to Washington, DC and am living in Columbia Heights. When I arrived here, I adopted a rescue dog from a shelter. I have noticed that when I walk her around many of the neighborhoods in DC, I constantly find her sniffing out and finding chicken bones that people have thrown out in garden beds, on sidewalks, and around trees on the side of the street. This is a huge problem for all dogs and dog owners, as chicken bones can splinter in dogs’ mouths and throats. This can cause severe bleeding, choking, and other dangerous health problems for dogs. What can we do to raise awareness of this problem? What are the local rules about littering here in DC?”

A new pilot program launched this spring but it is likely to early to tell if it has had any impact. Unfortunately this is a nuisance that we’ve battled for years and are likely to continue to battle for years.

102 Comment

    • “Check PoP”? How about check an actual authority on the local laws, not some blog junked up with a bunch of random opinions and supposed facts from God-knows-who on the interwebs?

      • How about posting the link yourself, in your incredulous response to someone not posting the link.

      • Prince Of Petworth

        The info provided by MJ and in the text of the post links to the press release from MPD with the littering pilot program fines:

        “If an officer sees you intentionally or carelessly dropping rubbish, waste matter, refuse, garbage, trash, debris, dead animals or other discarded materials of every kind and description, on public space, in waterways, or on private property not under your control, you may receive a $75 ticket for littering. Failure to properly respond by following the instructions on the back of the ticket will result in additional penalties.”

  • Sadly, you’ll have to get used to it. The trash tends to throw around it’s trash.

    • So true and so SAD. I have had open fights with people who throw there trash on the street even when a trash can is right there.

    • Yep, there are a LOT of very ignorant, completely uncivilized people (and I almost hesitate to classify them as people) in this town, who honestly don’t know any better.

  • This really is a serious problem so I feel bad that I laughed out loud reading the Dear PoP. I once found a chicken bone on a shelf at the CH Giant

  • The rats also add to the problem. They have a heyday dragging chicken bones all over the neighborhood.

  • HUGE peeve of mine. Not only chicken bones and food that harms the animals but trash and recyclables that often are mere steps away from a bin.

    I wish people would realize what this does to the environment now and in the long run.

    Not sure if the OP (or others) would be willing but I try to pick up trash/recyclables when I see them and toss them in the appropriate bin. Even carry a bag to fill now and then.

    Every little bit counts and living by example can make a difference.

    • Let me start by saying that I always pick up what I see, so I’m with you there.

      BUT..and it’s a big but…The trash that litter could care less about the environment. They are the same people who don’t cut their grass, that leave their homes in disrepair, etc.

      And don’t tell me it’s because they’re too poor. There are plenty of working class folks who have pride in their homes and their neighborhood.

  • Dear PoP, I’m new to town, and just discovered this great new Mexican restaurant called Lauriol Plaza…

  • Litter is a HUGE problem in columbia heights. I am not sure if its illegal, but there is no enforcement. people just blatantly throw their sh*t everywhere, its disgusting. I clean up my block every few weeeks because I just can’t stand it anymore, but then the next day the trash that lives around me starts throwing their chicken wings, arizona fruit punch cans, patron bottles, cigarette butts, chip bags and styrofoam containers half full of chinese food on the ground. These people suck.

    • austindc

      I live in Columbia Heights too, and the trash you described makes me think we live in the same area. Want to organize monthly cleanups? I’d join in. Then we could clean up the streets and get to know our neighbors!

      • Allison

        I want to help clean up!! I’ve cleaned up the plaza by the metro station by myself with a trashbag before but I get a lot of weird looks. People are sometimes mean about it!! (Guilty much?) But one guy saw me cleaning up so he bought me roses from the man who sells them near the entrance to the metro. I thought that was just so nice. 🙂

        We can organize it via Craigslist and PoP and stuff!

  • I laugh at how people really like to point out that there dog was “rescued.” But yeah, the bones aren’t going anywhere until the nasty people who throw them learn how to use a trash can or move out.

    • I’m glad to know someone else gets annoyed by this.

    • Pet overpopulation is a huge problem that most people don’t realize or care about when they go to a breeder. I like when people specify where they get their pets. It’s nice to know others care about this problem too.

  • People just don’t care.

    • me

      When walking down 14th one day a few months ago, a woman was walking in front of me with a huge box of chicken wings. She’d eat one, then throw the bone over her head behind her. Almost hit me before I sped up and walked around her. No one cares anymore.

  • The chicken bones are a national epidemic. My grandmother, who lives in suburban NJ, was recently saying she couldn’t find a clean seat on the bus because the other passengers had thrown their chicken bones all over the place. Childish, disgusting behavior!

  • Solution: boneless chickens.

  • I predict this thread will top 100 entries before 5PM. And get racial by 3PM.

  • solution: close all fast food /takeaways that serve chicken.

  • andy

    the people who leave chicken bones in the street aren’t going to change. anybody who ever thought to ask has been told, “no, don’t leave your chicken bones in the street.” So anyone who does either doesn’t care or doesn’t think it’s littering.

    • Exactly. I’m not even sure fining them would help.

      • Fining probably actually would help. But good luck coming up with any practical and effective enforcement regime — either getting offenders to pay or finding enough cops to dedicate to writing tickets 24-7.

        The reality is that the trash-throwers are never going to change, because they see absolutely nothing wrong with their behavior and there’s no practical way to enforce it. The rest of us will live in their squalor, organize and/or participate in the occasional neighborhood cleanup, and then realize it’s all rather pointless to try to change others who, as grandmother used to say, “lack home-training.” It’s sort of inevitable that we live at the lowest common denominator in this regard. And it really is a case in which, if you can’t abide the trash, you’re better off moving to the suburbs. Or at least a place way more homogenous than CH.

        BTW, in addition to the chicken bones, you’ve got to watch out for the used Chinese food carry-out boxes, which occasionally seem to impale themselves on iron fences. Very suicidal, those boxes. And very disgusting. They bleed soy and duck and mumbo sauce everywhere

  • weird- one of my ‘friends’ status on facebook today was “you know you live in a rough neighborhood when the litter on your walk to work is chicken bones and popeyes boxes” the first thought that popped in my head is ‘racist’ (the black people and fried chicken thing), and then I laughed. I don’t think chicken bones is an indicator of a ‘rough’ neighborhood. If you encounter shell casings or bullet holes, then I’d say its a rough neighborhood. Ohhh people from Connecticut…. I wonder if the same person wrote in about this?

    Anyway, I know people litter, but i’ve also seen a lot of animals picking at trash cans that haven’t been emptied. That makes such a mess. How hard is it for city workers to empty the trash?

    • If you’re talking about residential trash cans, a lot of people put their trash out in advance of the allowed hours.

      If you’re talking about street trash cans, I don’t know what schedules those are emptied on, but it seems like many need to be emptied more frequently than they are. It doesn’t help when people throw their household trash into the public trash can, presumably because they live in a place that has more than 2 units (and is thus ineligible for city pickup) and their landlord is too cheap to pay for private trash pickup.

      • DPW tends to skip trash cans on our block, though more often it’s the recycling.

        • Report them to your councilmember… that can be very effective for getting DPW and other D.C. agencies to (at least temporarily) do their jobs.

  • 3pm?! I’m shocked it hasn’t already. I give it another 3 minutes.

  • I was trying to pick up litter from my block in Park View every few days… but had to stop recently when it got really hot.

    It’s depressing. No matter how much I pick it up (on the “broken windows” theory), more just comes to replace it.

    • The “broken windows” theory isn’t about cleaning up trash. It’s about enforcing the littering laws so people will stop littering.

      • The “broken windows” theory holds that disorder and bad things breed more disorder and bad things.

        I’d love to see much more stringent enforcement of the littering laws. But until that happens, I’m going to try to pick up litter on my own block.

        Some people seem to have such (literally) trashy ways that maybe nothing will stop them from littering… but I’m hoping that maybe they’ll be a little less likely to litter if there’s no existing litter on the sidewalk, etc.

        There was a case where a PoP reader taped a D.C. government employee throwing her fast-food garbage out the window of her D.C. government vehicle… and apparently the employee’s (ridiculous and pathetic) excuse was that there was already litter on the street.

        • See, this is why we should hire Vlad the Impaler as police chief.

          Death via metal pole up the rear will make you think twice about shooting somebody, or stealing, or throwing your chicken bones on my street.

  • Poor people are the worst.

  • Solution: get a cat.

  • Columbia Heights is home to the rare chicken bone tree. Many years ago a few chicken bones mutated and merged genetically with the native oaks, now they drop their chicken bone seedlings all over. Don’t dis the native foliage!

  • Keep your dog away from stray chicken bones. That would be the easiest way. You want to spend more tax money on a program to rid the streets of chicken bones to save a couple dogs. Really? Get real..

  • The problem is most people tossing chicken bones on the ground probably don’t see it as littering. They’re seeing it as tossing something that is biodegradable onto the ground. They see it as no different than tossing out some ice, an apple core, etc. They are ignorant of the whole “chicken bones can kill dogs” concept.

    While I’m sure many who toss chicken bones also toss other, real trash onto the ground as well, I’m also guessing many will throw “real” trash into trash cans.

    I’m not sure what’s going to change this, unless chicken bones were specifically included in any anti-littering laws…or everyone got a dog for which they were responsible.

    • I hope your tongue was planted firmly in your cheek as you wrote that.

    • Sorry, I read you whole post, and I’m with the haaaaahaaaaa crowd.

      They are ignorant, you got that quite correct. They are ignorant about personal responsibility, social compacts and shared space. They are also careless about the same.

      The rest of your post is just pandering to the ignorant and careless of society.

  • they’re seeing it as tossing something biodegradable? hahahahahahaha… uh, no, they’re just littering.

    • +1. Like with empty bags (of chips and other snacks), lottery tickets, cans, bottles, crumpled paper towels, etc.

    • Way to not read my entire post, idiot.

      • it’s just so ridiculous that you think people are walking down the street thinking “hm, is this chicken bone biodegradable? yeah, i guess it is…” before throwing it on the ground.

        seriously awesome stuff (idiot)

        • you should ask the next person you see that does it.

        • My gf used this as justification for throwing orange skins out my window, and she is not one to litter normally. It’s astounding how many people have this belief. Just because something will *eventually* biodegrade doesn’t mean I want to see it on the sidewalk for however many weeks or months it takes.

          • You mean EX-gf, right? Because I can’t imagine any person sticking with a sanctimonious d-bag like you for too long.

          • Huh? How do you know if I even said anything to her about it (I did but didn’t make a big deal about it)?

          • hahahhaa. it’s sanctimonious to not want to see rotting fruit on the sidewalk.
            jesus, that’s a low bar.
            wtf is wrong with not thinking it’s cool to throw food on the streets?

          • Thank you! I wasn’t being an ass about it. And it’s my responsibility if a cop were to pull me over for it.

          • You’re absolutely right and I apologize. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the DC police pull someone over for illegal disposal of an orange peel. Please don’t justify your neurosis with the most extreme possibility…it’s not helping your case.

          • ‘Weeks or months’?

            Bones take many, many years to decay (think millenia).

        • Actually, I don’t understand why people are reacting so strongly to this comment.

          It’s not that ridiculous to suggest that some people toss chicken bones on the ground because they figure, “This is food, it’s okay to throw on the ground.”

          I think a lot of people don’t think twice about tossing food on the sidewalk because they genuinely don’t consider it littering.

  • OP- welcome to DC! Unfortunately liter is a constant problem in this city…actually just the tip of the iceberg! But I, like so many others, share your frustration and am encouraged that you reached out to the Prince to share your frustration with like minded residents.

    Call the police next time your dog comes across a chicken bone in the street. While this may seem a bit rash, forensic analysis has come a long way in the MPD and they have put many a chicken bone chucker behind bars over the past few years.

    This is the only way the we’ll be able to keep our neighborhood beautiful and chicken bone free.

    Welcome to the Beautiful Life!

  • I have 2 dogs and walk them in CH, as well. Another pet peeve of mine are the people who pick up after their dogs and bag their sh!t and then leave it sitting there bagged up on the ground!

    You’ve already done the nastiest part, now carry it to a trash can…

  • Chicken bones are no worst than canine poo left in front of your home, and one has to fight off the big horse flies that feast on the waste.

  • Litterers are worse than the drug dealers. I am not even remotely kidding here.

  • There is a certain aspect of DC ghetto living that has baffled me for years and that is eating while walking down the street. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the ice cream cone, or roasted chestnuts, even the cup of coffee doesn’t bother me, but chicken wings, potato chips…i just don’t get. It’s not like the people eating them are in a hurry to get back to the office, they are usually casually walking down the street sucking the chicken off the bone and tossing the bones in whatever direction requires the least amount of work. It’s fascinating, did they wash their hands before eating, will they wash them when they are done, will they lick their fingers after each wing? It’s enough to make you wish the city would put a tax on the sale of chicken wings as they care, in some neighborhoods, more of a problem then plastic bags.

  • I live in Petworth and we just got a 150 dollar littering ticket for all of the trash in our front yard/sidewalk that the 15 or so welfare dwellers (they all live in one row house) that don’t have jobs and sit on the front porch and sell crack all day. I went outside yesterday to pick up trash and filled an entire trash bag with items including, but not limited to, crack baggies and used condoms.

    I’m such a happy camper 🙂

    • You allowed it the trash to pile up (in front of your house) to the point that you got a ticket for littering? I too live in Petworth and I pick up no fewer than six pieces of trash in front of my house/on my block daily. It sucks that you got a ticket, but I hope you get some pride in your neighborhood. It may be the “welfare dwellers” that are leaving the garbage, but if it’s in your yard (in front of your house) then pick that crap up!

  • just recently moved to Petworth and I pick up liter on a daily bases. I don’t understand why people want to look at trash. Like some of the other post said it can be a trash can right beside them and they would rather throw it on the ground. I’m trying to get regular street cleaning for Farragut st NW so if you live in that area we should get together to get this done. I know its not going to be easy but if we come together we can change our neighborhoods for the best. I refuse to let these people win! Like you’ll i’ve worked to hard to see these low life people continue to destroy the city. If we keep the neighborhoods nice maybe it will attract more people like us. I can be reached at [email protected]

  • just recently moved to Petworth and I pick up liter on a daily bases. I don’t understand why people want to look at trash. Like some of the other post said it can be a trash can right beside them and they would rather throw it on the ground. I’m trying to get regular street cleaning for Farragut st NW so if you live in that area we should get together to get this done. I know its not going to be easy but if we come together we can change our neighborhoods for the best. I refuse to let these people win! Like you’ll i’ve worked to hard to see these low life people continue to destroy the city. If we keep the neighborhoods nice maybe it will attract more people like us. I can be reached at [email protected]

  • I’ve lived in CH for almost eight years, and have walked dogs the entire time. My estimate is that chicken bones have declined by at least 90% during that time. Must be the boneless chickens.

  • Two words: bottle bill.

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