The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

Neatly Done, But Guess What? — It's Still Litter

 Neat litter
Neat Litter
View Full Caption

LINCOLN SQUARE — How many times do you need to notice something before it counts as a bona fide trend?

Three times? Four times? Five? Ten?

How about more than a dozen.

I've got more than a dozen documented instances of a phenomenon I've struggled to name because it's so contradictory as to defy description.

[All photos DNAinfo/Patty Wetli]

Considerate litter. Conscientious litter. Passive litter. Less litter-y litter. Litter lite?

Neat litter.

Kind of like obscenity, you know it when you see it.

Patty Wetli is mad as heck and might give you a really stern side-eye.

Neat litter, as I've come to define it, consists almost exclusively of some sort of beverage container, placed just-so on a ledge/stoop/newspaper box rather than carelessly tossed into the street or onto the sidewalk. Basically if the container is A) upright and B) not spilling its contents into the public way, it's neat litter.

I have questions, starting with "Why?"

Not "Why litter?," which is inexplicable enough, but "Why litter thoughtfully?"

In my mind, I've concocted a plausible scenario under which "litterer" and "thoughtful" intersect, and it goes a little something like this:

Picture a fellow, mid-hydration, trudging along Lawrence Avenue. His destination is in sight — Walgreens, let's say, or the post office.

Like a mirage, the building begins to shimmer. His strength begins to fade.

If only he weren't burdened by the weight of his nearly empty bottle of orange juice/can of soda pop/cup of coffee. It's ... so ... heavy.

His hand cramps, his arm shakes, his legs begin to buckle.

There's a trash can up ahead but the bottle/can/cup is ... so ... heavy.

He can't go on. Not ... one ... step ... further.

He must lay down his load. Right there. Right then. But he will do so honorably, he thinks. Nay, thoughtfully, he thinks. And that's not at all the same as littering, he thinks.

Except for that it is.

The legal definition of litter is any "trash improperly placed."

Section 10-8-480 of the Chicago Municipal Code, "Casting refuse and liquids," puts an even finer point on the matter, declaring it: "Unlawful for any person to ... cast, throw, sweep, sift or deposit in any manner [emphasis mine] ... any kind of litter."

Neat litter might be trendy, but it's still subject to fines.

We call this one "Still Life, With Litter." Artist: anonymous.

Because Brown Line riders don't litter on the train.

A frappucino is a terrible thing to waste.


For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: