October means we’re two steps closer to trash free

Yesterday, lots of new laws took effect in Maryland, DC, and Virginia, like DC’s “yoga tax” and Maryland’s marijuana decriminalization. But we’re most excited about two new laws the media isn’t writing about:

SB390, which adds points to the driver’s licenses of people convicted of illegal dumping. This bill was introduced by the Baltimore City Delegation in response to the City’s excellent work in catching people dumping construction debris and other large amounts of trash. The City has mobile cameras; they set them up at dumping hot spots and get photographic evidence of people, their vehicles, and the act of illegal dumping. They convict almost 500 people a year this way!

But if those people go to another county and dump there too, if they get caught, the other county almost never knows that those individuals have a record in the City. They miss out on a chance to smack them with a high penalty for repeat violations. By tying these convictions to Motor Vehicle Administration records, it will be much easier to identify this repeat offenders. Ultimately the penalties will hopefully get offenders’ attention where fines may not. Points can range from 2 to 5 points–that’s the same level as speeding by 30 mph over the limit or failing to report an accident, among other crimes–depending on the amount of material dumped.

While we focus most of our efforts on source reduction policies, strong enforcement is also an important part of modifying behavior.

SB781 requires special events to have recycling bins next to every trash can, and for event organizers to have a plan for actually recycling collected material. This requirement applies to every event on public space that serves food and/or drink and expects 200 or more attendees. Counties have until 2015 to revise their recycling plans to accommodate this new requirement.

While recycling doesn’t necessarily reduce litter, getting people into the habit of recycling when they are out and about will help capture more recyclable material, and just might make the eventual transition to a container deposit a little easier.

Thank you to the Baltimore City Delegation and Administration, and to Senator Karen Montgomery, for making these victories possible!

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