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Littering Fines Could Double In NC Under Proposed Legislation

Cleaner World
North Carolina litterbugs may have to pay bigger fines if they're caught in the future -- if legislation making its way through the General Assembly winds up with a signature from the governor, anyway.

Lawmakers in the North Carolina House are considering legislation that would double fines for littering. The bill was filed as some environmental groups say there's been an increase in roadside litter during the pandemic.

House Bill 100 would raise the penalty for a first-time littering charge to $500-$2,000. A second offense would carry a fine of up to $4,000. That's twice as much as the current penalties.

Judges could also still require offenders to perform community service of up to 24 hours for a first offense and up to 40 hours for subsequent offenses.

Lawmakers are considering the bill as some environmental groups say there's been an increase in littering during the pandemic. Becky Lyons with the national group Keep America Beautiful says that includes an increase in face masks, small alcohol bottles and carry-out containers left by the road.

Lyons said that could be because people have been buying more takeout during the pandemic and drinking more outside of bars. She said volunteer groups also haven't been meeting as often during the pandemic to clean up the trash.

She said increasing penalties could be effective if there's buy-in from law enforcement.

"It's one thing to raise the fines, but if they're not enforced, it's not going to do any good," Lyons said.

The bill in the North Carolina House would also provide $500,000 for a statewide anti-litter campaign and another $500,000 to fund a "Cops Clean NC" program. The program would pay sheriff's deputies in rural counties to clean up litter.

As lawmakers consider the bill, some North Carolina counties are taking action on their own. On March 2, the Gastonia City Council voted to raise the city's penalty for littering from $100 for a first offense to $200. The city lowered the penalty for a second offense from $400 to $250. People who litter items heavier than 15 pounds would face heftier fines.

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Nick de la Canal is an on air host and reporter covering breaking news, arts and culture, and general assignment stories. His work frequently appears on air and online. Periodically, he tweets: @nickdelacanal