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"Remember: you’re not littering if it ain’t touchin’ the ground!"
February 10, 2013 7:36 PM   Subscribe

Litterplugs: "Now, I can understand how generalized holes — containers, street light bases, flower pots — become makeshift trashcans. Even if they’re obviously in no way trashcans, and likely will never be emptied or cleaned by any human being on earth, and in most cases there’s a real trashcan mere feet away, they at least share a vague similarity to the raw concept of a trashcan. But the best litterplugs take it to a new level. They raise not-littering littering to an art." An observation by Cabel Sasser.
posted by ocherdraco (51 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
> We all know it’s not cool to litter.

Untrue, sadly.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:39 PM on February 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Royal Society at work.
posted by The White Hat at 7:39 PM on February 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Things fitting incorrectly into other things.
posted by maudlin at 7:44 PM on February 10, 2013


We all know it’s not cool to litter.

I used to litter as a sort of generalized rebellion against Mother Earth, which bore me and will kill me. But as I get older and spend more time living in one place I realize that litter is actually an offense against my neighbors and against the urban space that I love. That said, things like 'litterplugs' and cool arrangements of mechanical litter on the street are like little grace notes that are part of what makes living in an urban area so much fun.

I think I'll start hashtagging those '#litterplugs' on Instagram when I see them. The beer can in the tree is instantly cool - its the intersection of the man made and the urban.

The best makeshift bins are shopping trolleys and milk crates.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 7:46 PM on February 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I read that as "Litterpugs" and REALLY didn't want to go there.
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:46 PM on February 10, 2013


I'm still haunted by the time I pulled up behind someone at a stop sign and they dropped an almost full can of soda out the driver side window. It landed vertically and just stood there like it was the poster child for inconsiderate humanity.

And why do people leave all their trash behind at the movie theater? Why is this still a thing that people do?
posted by Brocktoon at 7:47 PM on February 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


Why is this still a thing that people do?

I have no idea, but I am convinced that even if you put individual trash receptacles at each seat, they would still do it.
posted by ocherdraco at 7:48 PM on February 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


And why do people leave all their trash behind at the movie theater? Why is this still a thing that people do?

Because there are people who's job it is to pick that trash up. and I'm not going to crawl on the ground looking for bits of popcorn and popcorn tins. The same logic applies to eating in shared cafeteria spaces. The other time it's okay to litter is when you're at a concert and you can't drop your can or bottle without losing your space. When you're in that situation you should crush the can underfoot after dropping it, though. And this only applies to plastic, paper and aluminum, not glass.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 7:49 PM on February 10, 2013


And why do people leave all their trash behind at the movie theater? Why is this still a thing that people do?

I do it because of Jerry Seinfeld :(
posted by ftm at 7:54 PM on February 10, 2013


I have a couple. This cup looks like a bubble. Rubbish is tied up and hung from a handrail.
posted by unliteral at 7:57 PM on February 10, 2013


Is art created by putting cups in chainlink fences a subset of this, or something different?
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 7:58 PM on February 10, 2013


Those colorful Free newspaper dispensers - plenty of room for trash (and worse) under the fresh papers...
posted by Abinadab at 8:00 PM on February 10, 2013


As someone in the comments points out, in British train stations you can blame the IRA.
posted by Artw at 8:11 PM on February 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Brilliant and lazy is a deadly combination.
posted by BrotherCaine at 8:15 PM on February 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Some of those are mostly bandwagon litterplugs. Like, I wouldn't take an empty base of a light pole as a trash can, but if there were already a couple soda cans in there, I might think they'd just forgotten to stick a bag in it. This looks like a trash can to me (although I can't judge the height well in that photo, so maybe it wouldn't IRL).

Flowers in barrels though, come on. There are fucking geraniums right there. How could you possibly think that is a waste receptacle?
posted by maryr at 8:50 PM on February 10, 2013


And why do people leave all their trash behind at the movie theater? Why is this still a thing that people do?

For the same reasons people still leave their shopping trolleys askew in a parking lot rather than returning them to the carrel or store. For the same reasons people won't carry their litter to a waste bin or take it home/to work with them, and will instead toss trash (or worse, recyclables) into trees (where perhaps an animal once lived), subway tracks, BBQs in parks, plant pots, children's toys at playgrounds, etc — someone else will clean up.

They contribute to the uglification our world, and it effects more than superficial aesthetics. It becomes more comfortable and easier for others to rationalize: I have to run back to work and I can't find a garbage bin! Oh, why don't I toss my disposable plastic salad container and sandwich wrapper from lunch in this old flower pot; it's already filled with garbage anyway.

Why do they do it? Laziness, taking others for granted, and not participating cooperatively within society to promote a better place and attitude for all. They are being selfish and thoughtless.
posted by mayurasana at 8:53 PM on February 10, 2013 [10 favorites]


Somehow in NYC, it seems to be common practice to throw your trash into any over-sized bike basket if it is locked to a pole on the sidewalk. There is one particular bike--I think it is on 14th Street--that has become so loaded with trash that I imagine the owner just gave up on it.

You would also be amazed at the towering mounds of trash the build up on top of the rare subway platform garbage cans. Given how much trash people seem to thrown onto the tracks, it is amazing that there is any left to stack atop these teetering trash mountains.
posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 8:53 PM on February 10, 2013


Why is this still a thing that people do?

Because a lot of people are assholes.

I knew people who'd drop shot glasses on the floor at bars. Some of them even went out of their way to stomp on the fallen glasses to exacerbate the problem.

Some people are assholes, some venues encourage asshole-ism, and some venues simply invite asshole-ish behaviour with abandon. Movie theatres - dark anonymous public places with a low(ish) cost of entry. No wonder that historically people with sexual appetites that were/are illegal used public (adult) theaters as places to hook up.
posted by porpoise at 8:56 PM on February 10, 2013



For the same reasons people still leave their shopping trolleys askew in a parking lot rather than returning them to the carrel or store.

They contribute to the uglification our world, and it effects more than superficial aesthetics.


Except shopping trolleys left out 'in the wild' are both beautiful - I can upload a series I took of two shopping trolleys that always appeared to be in different positions, like they were romancing and mating - and useful to people who need to walk their laundry around but don't have a car.

Even 'normal' trash adds different colours and textures to the world, and contributes to the intermingling of man and nature. For a dedicated flaneur, finding those Situationist moments is a bit of a thrill.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 9:00 PM on February 10, 2013


the garbage in trees was a bummer.
posted by fuzzypantalones at 9:08 PM on February 10, 2013


I hate this. Take your trash with you. It isn't that hard to carry a piece of garbage to the proper receptacle. Really, it isn't.

Heck, keep a small bag on you, in a pocket or in your purse, so you can put your garbage in it and carry it elsewhere.
posted by SuzySmith at 9:15 PM on February 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


pocket or in your purse, so you can put your garbage

It's a loop.
posted by Mblue at 9:19 PM on February 10, 2013


I just needed somewhere to stick this.
posted by XMLicious at 9:29 PM on February 10, 2013


I'm a litterer about 1 day every two years, but I try to make up for it by picking up litter more often.
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:50 PM on February 10, 2013


Even 'normal' trash adds different colours and textures to the world, and contributes to the intermingling of man and nature. For a dedicated flaneur, finding those Situationist moments is a bit of a thrill.

I think the Situationists meant to critique capitalist overconsumption and waste, not apologize for it.
posted by oulipian at 9:58 PM on February 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Even 'normal' trash adds different colours and textures to the world, and contributes to the intermingling of man and nature. For a dedicated flaneur, finding those Situationist moments is a bit of a thrill.

I think the Situationists meant to critique capitalist overconsumption and waste, not apologize for it.


Aesthetics is more fun when you remove it from politics. What are these things but mini-art happenings, spontaneous acts like less planned versions graffiti, street art, and yarn bombing?

Basically, this is more interesting shit for me to Instagram.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 10:05 PM on February 10, 2013


A while back I took a yoghurt cup out of the crotch of a tree and found a Geocache under it.

Within the cache were three paper cranes, a pencil, and a log. I signed the log. On the bottom of each crane was a note asking the finder to remember the people who were working at Fukushima and send good thoughts their way. I took one and left it on a windowsill in a library in another state.

(I put the cache back and the cup that covered it. So it'd be there for the next person who cared enough to pick up trash.)
posted by merelyglib at 10:17 PM on February 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


I work in a building that used to have a bank in it, complete with drive-through teller lanes. After the bank moved out, they removed the pneumatic machinery from the drive-through lanes but left the housings that they were in (similar to those in this picture). Almost immediately afterwards, they started filling up with trash as if they were normal trash receptacles.
posted by zsazsa at 12:06 AM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


As soon as you get a piece or 2 of trash in a spot, people will identify it as a place to dispose of their litter.

The thing that always provoked my anger the most was when people dump full car ashtrays out on the pavement. Well, that and bags full of McTrash. The beer cans and bottle thing though is a product of laws that penalize for having both empties and full containers in the car (regardless of your state of sobriety or the absence of open containers!).
posted by Goofyy at 12:30 AM on February 11, 2013


Ughh, as the owner of an adorable bicycle with an adorable basket, I have to continually ask myself WTF is wrong with people who load it up with their garbage? I don't pop my half empty iced coffees into your cracked open car windows!
posted by fermezporte at 5:14 AM on February 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Some of those pictures made me smile, but the talk about littering has made me all grumpy again. I am more and more convinced that most people just go through life reacting to input like closed-loop robots with poorly trained machine vision.

RUBBISH GO IN BIN. THING LOOK LIKE BIN. RUBBISH GO IN THING. NEXT.
posted by lucidium at 7:29 AM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ughh, as the owner of an adorable bicycle with an adorable basket, I have to continually ask myself WTF is wrong with people who load it up with their garbage?


I have a bike with a basket that gets parked on a busy city street (West Queen West in Toronto). People invariably put garbage in the basket, and it drives me nuts.

I sortof understand what people are thinking, and it feels like a sort of right-direction inclination, in the bike case and in most of the others, that just didn't work out right. You have your piece of trash, you know you're not supposed to throw it on the sidewalk, you see a container, and so you throw it in there. If people did not care at all about being well-behaved, they would just drop their trash on the street. There is at least some little part of them that is trying to do the right thing, is it just not doing a good enough job.

For me - whenever I get trash in my bike basket, I never know what to do. It seems wrong to me that I have to empty out a nights worth of gross takeout food containers, cigarette packs, and bottles, and to do this on a regular basis (which also involves handling all this unpleasant stuff). And part of me thinks - "Look the people who left this in by basket were littering. If I drop this stuff on the sidewalk, I'm just moving litter from one place to another." But I usually cannot bring myself to just dump it on the sidewalk...
posted by ManInSuit at 8:26 AM on February 11, 2013


Also - while I am late to this thread, I'm really interested in peoples' take on "littering" in movie theaters that others have spoken about here. I'd always assumed that leaving your popcorn bag on the floor in a theater was no more littering than leaving your food on the table at a resstaurant when you are done eating - that the 10 dollars the theater charges me for seventy five cents worth of popcorn and coke includes the service of clearing it up when I am done. My girlfriend, generally a better person than me, is shocked by my popcorn-leaving-behind behavior. I try to go along with her way of doing things but it does not come easy. Does anyone have any additional light to shed on this?
posted by ManInSuit at 8:43 AM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


My girlfriend, generally a better person than me, is shocked by my popcorn-leaving-behind behavior. I try to go along with her way of doing things but it does not come easy. Does anyone have any additional light to shed on this

I think of carrying my trash out of the movie theater with me as being respectful toward the employees whose job it is to clean out the theater. I try not to make life harder for people who are already doing unpleasant jobs.
posted by not that girl at 9:37 AM on February 11, 2013 [9 favorites]


This could carry over to explain the creatively disgusting behavior people display in public restrooms. I don't think people much care about who has to deal with the mess, but having met the hard-working and decent people that are cleaning my office and work building late at night puts consideration first when I'm out in the world ravaging public spaces.
posted by loquat at 9:48 AM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


The front steps of my house provide a public service to those burdened with enormously heavy empty coffee cups and beverage bottles. Lay down your encumbrance, weary traveler!
posted by orme at 10:01 AM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


People who litter are lazy inconsiderate fucks.

The photos of "litterplugs" are funny in a tragic way when isolated from their surroundings. It is, however, not "texture", but one of the things that make living in urban areas unpleasant (and vermin infested).
posted by smidgen at 10:07 AM on February 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'd always assumed that leaving your popcorn bag on the floor in a theater was no more littering than leaving your food on the table at a restaurant when you are done eating

Restaurants turn over one table at a time, and only one party is held up by clearing and resetting the table. Movie theaters on the other hand have to clean the entire theater between showings. If everyone adopted your popcorn leaving behavior it would lengthen the time between screenings substantially. So either they'd have to work rather obtrusively during the screening, or charge even more for the damn tickets.

So your girlfriend isn't the only one who's shocked by your behavior, I am too.
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:57 AM on February 11, 2013


Except shopping trolleys left out 'in the wild' are both beautiful ... Even 'normal' trash adds different colours and textures to the world, and contributes to the intermingling of man and nature

Regarding the other night: When I shat on your coffee table, I did so as a statement of artistic expression. I don't know why you are so grumpy about it; my pièce has added a focal point for discussion to your otherwise banal domicile, and your neighbors surely will be envious. The defenestration of your house plants was not planned, but I think it turned out well: Yes, I could have opened the windows first, but the shattered glass serves to remind us all of the impermanence of artificial things in the presence of nature. And of the way in which I expressed my love with your sofa, I can only say: There is such beauty in art!
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 11:49 AM on February 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'd always assumed that leaving your popcorn bag on the floor in a theater was no more littering than leaving your food on the table at a restaurant when you are done eating

It's all about implicit social contracts. The social contract in a full service restaurant is that you leave your dishes on the table. At a fast food restaurant or a cafe, you handle your own garbage. This contract is signalled by prominent placement of the garbage can or bus tub, as you also find in movie theaters.

At a movie theater, the contract is that you carry out your own trash, although a minority of people think otherwise. You are not expected to sweep the floor of stray popcorn bits or clean up spills, but you should dispose of all food packaging.

There is no need for complex rationalizations here. Just follow the contract. If you don't follow the contract, everyone else will assume you are an asshole and will treat you accordingly, even if you think you have a good reason to or are mistaken about the exact nature of the social contract.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 12:06 PM on February 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


But when was this contract stated, explicitly or implicitly? I have always assumed that it is the movie theatre's employees job to take out the trash, not the people watching the movie.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 12:37 PM on February 11, 2013


Yes, they are paid to clean up after you, because they know you won't. Just sit for a minute and think about what you are doing, then perhaps you will understand. Unless of course you are tipping the people cleaning up the piles of trash you leave behind? And you are more than welcome to rationalize it based on how much you just spent, I'm sure cleaning up after you is built into the total price, but at such time do not be shocked if I then call you a bourgeois poopy head.
posted by Brocktoon at 12:51 PM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's stated implicitly by the placement of the garbage cans, and if you ask anyone at the theater, they'll state it explicitly. Also about a million Reddit IAmAs with movie theater custodians.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 12:52 PM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Littering, especially when it is perceived to be "acceptable" like leaving your garbage behind at movie theaters, is externalization of responsibility. Would you be happy if people didn't pick up after their dogs? Would it "add different colours and textures to the world"? And if you like nature mingling mingling with your shoes in that way I would ask you to not have it affect the rest of us who have to live in the world, too.

The externalization of responsibility scales upwards, too. Perhaps people don't care that corporations would rather leave the cleanup costs for any oil spills or industrial accidents for the taxpayer to pay. It's someone else's job, isn't it? It's not like we need safe drinking water or anything, either.

Litterbugs and people who pollute the commons drive me nuts. They betray a lack of concern for their fellow citizens and expect others to clean up after them. That's sociopathic behavior, and sociopaths can go suck it in my book.
posted by ooga_booga at 1:12 PM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Aesthetics is more fun when you remove it from politics


Aesthetics is politics.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:12 PM on February 11, 2013


But when was this contract stated, explicitly or implicitly?

Most theaters explicitly ask you to in their pre-show policy trailers: Regal, United Artists, Loews, etc.
posted by ocherdraco at 3:17 PM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


None of it is beautiful. That is, of course, my opinion.

I practice my own art. It involves trash bags and long walks on the beach and the uncovering of innumerable cigarette butts, along with plastic bottles, plastic bags, candy wrappers, and the none too infrequent soiled diaper.

But I don't celebrate the people who make my art possible. I mourn.
posted by ElGuapo at 12:56 PM on February 12, 2013


I am convinced! I will always pick up my popcorn after movies now. I had not understood that this was the implicit contract (we don't have policy trailers like the ones ocherdraco links to), but now I do, and I will follow the terms of that implicit contract.
posted by ManInSuit at 12:57 PM on February 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


On the couple of occasions I went to British movie theatres in the 90s there were ushers who led you to your seats, which I had never seen in an American movie theatre. They found it bizarre when I asked where the dustbins were to toss out my trash, pointed out their location but added "...but you know, sir, that's our job, to clear that away..." so it seems to vary from culture to culture.

Also, there was popcorn with sugar sprinkled on it instead of salt; though I've seen that at American concession stands in recent years too.
posted by XMLicious at 1:35 PM on February 12, 2013


(I just realized, ManInSuit, that you're the guy who wrote The Chairs Are Where the People Go. And I just helped introduce you to part of the social contract. That feels weird.)
posted by ocherdraco at 2:00 PM on February 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I used to be the person cleaning up after you in the movie theater (well, maybe not you, unless you went to the Coolidge Corner Theatre in the mid 1990s). I didn't mind gathering all the popcorn buckets and such -- we only had to do it once an evening, as I recall, so it was just part of closing up the theater and making sure there weren't any patrons asleep on the floor -- but I did think the less of people who left them, in a mild "why didn't you do this yourself?" way.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:38 PM on February 12, 2013


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