Neighborhood litter: “A dirty and dangerous environment can heighten stress levels and shrink individual aspirations.”

The Courier-Journal is a chronic litterer.

New Albany isn’t particularly clean in the best of times, and a litter-strewn city always seems worse in the dead of winter, without any overgrown vegetation to hide the mess. As the following article suggests, a number of interrelated factors probably explain it — none of them particularly encouraging.

The Next Louisville: What Trash Cans Tell Us About Poverty In Louisville
, by, Jacob Ryan (WFPL)

… City data show residents in Taylor Berry report instances of litter at one of the highest rates in the city. Though city officials have closed nearly all of the complaint cases, the trash remains.

A review of city trash bin locations shows that, in 91 percent of the 340 complaints in Taylor Berry, there’s no public trash can on the block.

This isn’t unique to Taylor Berry. Across the city, data show trash piles up in parts of town with the fewest public trash cans. In fact, 73 percent of all trash complaints reported to the city’s MetroCall 311 service are not within one block of a trash can, the data show. And 41 percent of those locations had no trash bin within two blocks.

(Neighborhood resident) Cissell said the absence of trash bins sends a message: her street just isn’t a priority like those in the growing downtown Central Business District, with 110 trash bins per mile — 101 more than her neighborhood.

The crappier things are, the crappier they’ll become. That’s encouraging. Has the SOTU started yet?

 … (U of L professor) DeCaro also points out a 1990 study by psychologist Robert Cialdini in which paper handbills were placed on the windshield of vehicles in a parking garage. In one instance, the garage was cleaned of debris and trash. In another, the garage was heavily littered.

The results were just as Cialdini and his team anticipated. People were more likely to toss the handbills to the ground in the littered garage, as opposed to the clean garage.

DeCaro said people pay subtle attention to their social environment — “and then we infer assumptions about the people living there and our relationship with it.”

Haven Harrington, who lives in Russell, also points to the “broken window” theory when discussing the scourge of trash in the neighborhood.

“People tend to want to disrespect your neighborhood more when they see trash everywhere,” said Harrington, a past president of the Russell Neighborhood Association. “They think, well, if the people here don’t care, why should I?”