Theory of garbage

As you may be aware, India is full of trash; when you're finished unwrapping something you simply throw it out the window or discard it in the nearest gutter. It looks like there are two equilibria here: one where everyone litters and one where only a few people do. The amount of litter here is astonishing and it's taken me a month to get used to just dropping things whenever I'm finished with them (don't get me started on "Be the change:" this problem's bigger than me and I use trash bins when they're around. Most of the trash here is simply burned, after it's been picked through by dogs and cows (have only seen a few people digging through the trash here; there aren't any giant piles of trash). Shop owners keep the areas in front of their shops clean, but the same can't be said of houses; there are some really nice houses behind Vidya Bhawan that have ugly, dirty streets. There are clear public benefits to responsible disposal of trash; property values rise, the air's less polluted (and less smelly). Furthermore if I'm disposing trash on your property and you're picking it up and putting it back on mine we're both wasting time. But most people in the West pay for garbage disposal, not the other way around. When did we move to this equilibrium? I'm pretty sure social approval, and maybe littering laws, are the driver behind the no-litter equilibrium; what's to stop someone from just dumping their trash in the middle of the night? The only successful ad campaign I can think of in this area is the "Don't Mess with Texas" campaign, which was hugely successful in cutting down on highway littering. The amount of littering I do depends on how much littering I think you're doing as well as the convenience of disposing of it. It's possible that rising incomes won't solve this problem, as it's a collective action issue. Homeowners associations and malls might be able to solve it, and shop owners can keep their shops clean but I doubt there will be much change otherwise.

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