CITY HALL — Fines for littering — including tossing cigarette butts on the ground — would greatly increase and litterbugs would face having their cars impounded if a new ordinance submitted by a South Side alderman is approved by the City Council.
Ald. Howard Brookins (21st) introduced the ordinance Wednesday to increase fines for littering to $1,500 and allow for police to impound vehicles that trash has been tossed from. Brookins said litter is a problem in his community.
"We're sick and tired of it," Brookins said. "They're throwing diapers, they're throwing McDonald's wrappers and all sorts of paper from fast food, condiments, outside the window. They are actually even throwing used condoms outside the window. It is bad, it is nasty, it's a public health concern and it's gotta stop."
According to Brookins, the current fine for littering is $50 to $100.
"I think it will absolutely be a deterrent," he added.
Asked if dropped cigarette butts — which one group has called the world's largest litter problem — would trigger the high fines laid out in the ordinance, Brookins pointed to language in the proposal that referred to "cigarette packages." But other language in the bill refers to "any other type of rubbish, garbage, refuse matter, article."
"I know it's excessive. I just want to get your attention," he said.
While Brookins is targeting littering citywide, the problem of littered cigarettes is so bad the butts account for half of the trash found along Illinois’ shoreline, according to the Lake Michigan Federation.
The federation says that butts, which include plastic components, can take years to break down and contain chemicals such as cadium, lead and arsenic, which can leach into waterways. In a one day-cleanup of Lake Michigan beaches a few years ago, some 97,400 butts were collected, the federation said.
Brookins' ordinance will be assigned to committee Wednesday for consideration.