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What to do about someone who litters?

  1. Sep 1, 2009 #1
    the first day of class i sat next to this guy. when he left the room (early, he seems pretty rude) he shoved his extra large sized drink cup under the chair. i decided not to say anything at the time, because maybe he's a new student and doesn't understand. but it happened again tonight. he left the room again, and on his desk he left his cup! it's not like he didn't notice it, he picked it up from the floor and set it there. i picked it up before i left. i can't believe people could intentionally litter like that.

    i'm tempted to call him out if (probably when) it happens again. i'm kind of shy, but it's an issue i feel strongly about. what would you do? part of me wants to call him out when he leaves in the middle of class, but i think that would make me look bad. should i just go to the teacher and hope for the best?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 1, 2009 #2


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    Perhaps not the best approach but I would call his attention to it without making too big a fuss. Annoy him or embarrass him and he'll likely continue to do it out of bloody-headedness.

    So, in that sitch, I would:
    - call to him quietly, as he gets up: "Dude".
    - when he looks around, I'd pointedly look and nod toward the cup.
    - I would not engage him, or further react, whether he acted or not.

    He might do nothing that time, but I'd wait and observe his behaviour the next day...
  4. Sep 1, 2009 #3
    If it was me, I would no doubt go ahead and call him out on it. Don't worry about it making you look bad. Just make sure you do it in a way that doesn't come off abrasive. "Hey, I think you almost accidentally left this trash there". Mention that you're just looking out for him so that he doesn't get in trouble by the teacher.

    I can't stand litter bugs. I smoke on occasion and can't stand to see people throwing cigarettes out their car window or on the ground. Sometimes it's the other people that smoke that really make me want to quit.
  5. Sep 1, 2009 #4
    my mil's apartment is littered with cigarettes all over. people smoke and then throw the butts over the rail to the ground. i saw a child playing in the dirt scooping up used cigarettes and other debris into his toy dump truck, and i think that's why i'm so fired up right now. i cleaned that little section around her apartment, but a few minutes later someone had already thrown a banana peel and other cigarettes onto it.... kind of hopeless feeling sometimes. i wonder what goes through people's minds when they litter?
  6. Sep 1, 2009 #5


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    Tell the professor. He'll chew him up real good.:approve:
  7. Sep 1, 2009 #6
    IMO, nothing goes through their minds. That's the problem. Complete and total lack of consideration for other people. That and it (more often than not) gives a little peek into that persons life on how they conduct themselves in other areas... home cleanliness, organization, ect.
  8. Sep 1, 2009 #7
    Recycle him...
  9. Sep 1, 2009 #8
    If you try to get him to stop doing this yourself I would suggest being non-confrontational. Confrontation regarding rules should be the domain of actual authority figures. Most places have this sort of policy to prevent issues between peers.

    So if you say something I would suggest something similar to what Dave said though I tend to be a smart*** and would affect a cheery "helpful" attitude about it.
    "Hey you forgot your cup!"
    "You don't want it?" *uncomprehending* "Oh, well you should probably throw it away then." *cheery helpful smile*:biggrin:
  10. Sep 1, 2009 #9
    This is excellent advice. There's really not much else you can do because if he's the type of guy who can't handle criticism he's just going to keep on doing it to get your goat. If he's at all reasonable or mature then this is something he's likely to respond (positively) to... if not, you're just going to have to deal with it I'm afraid.

    If nothing else, it'll make him think about it. And if you can get some allies involved to put on this sort of pressure ("That guy's always leaving his trash around... what a jerk.") then he's sure to break at some point. No one likes an inconsiderate jackass and people tend to feel more comfortable saying something when they've got strength in numbers.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 1, 2009
  11. Sep 1, 2009 #10


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    That's the best way.

    It's also worth taking a look around the room to see if trash cans are in convenient locations. I've been in some lecture halls where students always leave trash behind, and when you look for a trashcan, you realize why. Either you can't find any, they are too small (one little wastebasket near the door for a room seating 200), or they are in bad locations (i.e, in the front of the room or in a corner, not near the door as you leave). So, sometimes the students leave behind trash not because they like littering, but because they don't see any receptacle for it, so hope that means a custodian comes through and cleans between classes. In that case, a call to your facilities or custodial services pointing out the need for additional trash cans is a better solution (sometimes they think, foolishly, that not putting out trash cans will help enforce the no food and drink in the lecture hall rules that some schools make up, but nobody enforces those rules, so it just means the trash piles up).
  12. Sep 1, 2009 #11


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    If it were me, i would get to class early and put an empty on his desk.
  13. Sep 1, 2009 #12


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    Great idea.. what are you, 7? :rolleyes:
  14. Sep 1, 2009 #13
    last time I tried to correct a behavior like that, I got a reply of
    'It bugs you! You clean it up.'

    Change seats if you can and stay focused on the class.
  15. Sep 1, 2009 #14
    If it bugs you clean it for them and notify them that they make lots of mess if they are present. Else leave it to the cleaning people.
  16. Sep 1, 2009 #15
    You could always present them with an award for the "Biggest Litterbug" or "Most Inconsiderate" - and have everyone sign it.
  17. Sep 1, 2009 #16


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    I followed a young woman one morning on my way to work. I was on my bike and she was in her Mustang gabbing on a cell phone. Apparently, she wanted to keep the car clean because she threw her cigarette butt out the window, then out came a Marlboro box, then a cellophane wrapper off a new pack. I was getting pretty ticked off, but was stuck in back of her due to traffic and lack of passing zones. When we finally got to the last light before the road to the medical park, out came another cigarette butt, then the outer and inner wrappers of a stick of gum. She worked in the same complex that I did, so I pulled into the parking lot beside her, and when she got out, I asked if she would please use her ash tray and maybe a little trash bag instead of throwing everything out the window. Her answer? "F*** off!"
  18. Sep 1, 2009 #17
    I'm sure the custodial services will come after the class to clean up quickly before the next lecture... like in a movie theatre. Its not exactly littering. Like it would be a different story if he left food all over the floor spilt his drank and left all the containers. Its just an empty cup though.. Sure it would be easy for him to just pick it up and take it but maybe he has alot of other things to carry or as moon pointed out doesn't know where conviently located trash cans are.

    If you want to call him out on it by all means go ahead. Just be like hey man you forgot your garbage or something. However you're not making the world a greener place and probably not changing how clean the lecture hall will be in the next class (since the custodians will come). Even if they DIDN'T come between classes who cares if an empty cup is under their chair?
  19. Sep 1, 2009 #18
    Who is picking up after this guy now? The professor is probably throwing out his garbage after class. If it keeps up then everyone will lose the privilege of eating and drinking in class. Broad, sweeping removal of benefits seems to be authority's typical response to these sorts of problems, rather than making rules specifically for one nonconforming individual.

    You could try directly telling the guy to clean up after himself so someone else doesn't have to pick up after him and everyone can eat and drink in class. If it's just you saying anything then he'll probably just laugh at you or apologize insincerely. If he doesn't respect people enough to not leave his trash in their playground then he won't care what you have to say. This approach might work only if the class backs you up.

    The guy doesn't want to be in class anyway. His parents probably want him there and he doesn't know what he wants for himself. His behaviour in class could be an unconscious passive aggressive response. You could respond in kind. You could leave trash on his desk before class so he would see what that's like. You could sit in his chair and pretend not to notice him pretending not to notice you there so he never feels he has a physical space in class. The point of these reactions is to make obvious to the guy that there is a problem and to let him modify his behaviour on his own. It's like training a dog with rewards and punishments.

    Or you could take it upon yourself to clean up after him. This avoids all confrontation. It eliminates the risk of the class losing any priveleges. It limits the need for people to be concerned to just you, because nobody else has worry about who is going to clean up if you do it for him consistently and aren't aggrieved by it. There's also the possibility that the guy notices you cleaning up after him and makes the conscious decision to clean up after himself rather than continue his harmful passive aggressive behaviour. The down side to this solution is that, unfortunately, it is viewed as a weakness to be subservient to ones peers. There's also no guarantee that anything will change.

    But really, isn't it a little bit uptight to get all riled up over a guy leaving his cup at his desk twice? Before you decide to do anything take a step back and relax.

    edit- is this a lecture hall or a classroom? If it's a lecture hall, forget it. Worry about what you can control.
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2009
  20. Sep 1, 2009 #19
    Thats weird that that even happens any more, around where I live it's like a 1000$ fine if you're caught throwing trash out of your car. Not only are you making the roads dirty and littering in public your creating potentially dangerous situations for other drivers...
  21. Sep 1, 2009 #20


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    No kidding! When you're on a motorcycle, it's prudent to try to avoid stuff flying at you, especially if they are on fire, though any sort of trash getting tossed in traffic is a distraction.
  22. Sep 1, 2009 #21
    I thought you could call the police and inform them if anyone is driving recklessly while you are on road.
  23. Sep 1, 2009 #22
    I think it's safe to assume she's a P.i.GG. Her attitude will catch up to her.
  24. Sep 1, 2009 #23


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    :rofl: I'm trying to decide how I'd react if a student came up to me to complain about another student leaving an empty cup at their desk after class. Since the "class participation" part of the grade I give (just enough points that they can't whine about borderline grades if they aren't showing up to class) includes some provisions for professional conduct, I think I'd have to deduct points from the tattle tale for acting like a kindergartener rather than an adult and bothering me with such a trivial matter.

    Of course, I do also ask my students to limit the amount of food and drink they bring to class...I don't mind them having a can, bottle or cup of something to help them stay awake, or a light snack, but I suggest it's not the time to bring in a 5 course meal and spread it out across the desks, and ask that they only eat "quiet" food...not a good time for a big bag of chips. It's my compromise between dealing with those who have no sense of what's appropriate in a classroom, yet not wanting the entire class to suffer from a "no food" rule.
  25. Sep 1, 2009 #24


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    Good points, MB. I had a really heavy course-load for the first couple of years with a full engineering curriculum and honors courses, so I used to eat on the fly (and in lecture-halls). Cheese and bread were nice quiet foods to nibble on, with a little glass bottle (refillable day after day) of cider, etc. I'd save the crunchy apples and the (rather fragrant when peeling) citrus for walks between classes. My freshman year, I used to hunt down a Lithuanian student every morning (he and his parents were bakers) and buy a round loaf of pumpernickel or other nice bread to have with my cheese. Later (freshmen were required to live in on-campus housing), I used to bake my own whole-grain breads every week. Sometimes, people would sit beside me in lectures, so they could bum some good bread during class.

    I would hate to have been barred from eating during lectures simply because some slob started leaving trash in the halls. I was a long-distance runner with a high metabolism, and it was hard for me to survive on the 3-big-meal regimen in High School. When I got home after sports practices, I would raid the larders, and then eat a huge evening meal. I never broke 130# until college because I couldn't pack it in as fast as I was burning it up.
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2009
  26. Sep 1, 2009 #25
    Throw it out, but while he's still there so he can see you do it. Many people are oblivious and don't realize they are making a mess. This will call his attention to the fact that someone is cleaning up after him without being confrontational.

    Alternatively, you could something like "hey, i heard the professor really hates it when people leave their junk around. Just thought I'd let you know."
    This may not be true, but it's a way of suggesting someone do something while still "being on their side."
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