ANNAPOLIS – You’d want to think twice before tossing a tissue onto the highway or sneaking out to dump a sofa into a streambed if a bill in the state Legislature becomes law.
The bill would allow the state of Maryland to seize the car, boat, plane or other vehicle of a person caught littering more than once.
Although the measure technically would apply to anyone caught littering, it was drafted primarily to penalize people who dump truckloads of trash illegally into streams and along roadways.
“We have tires mountain high around in Prince George’s County,” Sen. Decatur Trotter, D-Prince George’s, the bill’s sponsor, told the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Tuesday.
“All we want to do is have a little teeth so that we can make it painful for those who go out and participate in this activity,” he said.
Currently, Prince George’s County spends over $600,000 a year removing construction debris, tires, furniture, carpets, tree limbs and other junk from county property, according to Dale Coppage, deputy director of the county Department of Public Works.
“The costs of county government are steep and getting steeper,” Coppage told the committee.
Cleaning up litter takes valuable dollars away from other county projects like fixing potholes and repaving roads, Coppage said. Illegal dumping also creates environmental problems when pollution seeps into ground water, he said.
The worst litterers are people who dump truckloads of commercial debris or other junk to avoid paying tipping fees at landfills, Coppage said.
Measures to penalize litterers currently exist under the state Litter Control Law. Fines range from $1,000 for throwing out garbage lighter than 100 pounds to $25,000 for dumping more than 500 pounds of debris.
The new bill would also enable counties to draft their own local litter ordinances, similar to city litter laws, and empower county inspectors to go after illegal dumpers. Under current law, dumpers cannot be fined or penalized unless police catch them in the act.
The Judicial Proceedings Committee has not yet scheduled a vote on the new litter bill. No one spoke in opposition at the hearing.