Va. House votes to double minimum fine for littering from $250 to $500

Va. House votes to double minimum fine for littering from $250 to $500
A bird chews on a plastic bag in downtown Richmond. (Source: Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

As someone who’s adopted a stretch of road, Del. James Edmunds says Virginia’s littering problems have never been worse.

His theory is that because of the COVID-19 pandemic, with many restaurants closed for indoor dining, more people are eating in their cars and tossing trash out the window.

“I just can’t imagine having a mindset that I’m just going to throw out my trash on somebody’s place and just dirty up the roads,” Edmunds, R-Halifax, said at a General Assembly committee meeting last month. “It’s just a lack of respect.”

In an effort to prod Virginians to clean up their act, Edmunds filed a bill that would double the minimum fine for littering, taking it from $250 to $500.

The House of Delegates passed the bill Wednesday in a 67-31 vote that cut across party lines, with bipartisan support and bipartisan opposition. The bill still needs approval from the state Senate.

The legislation was supported by the Virginia Farm Bureau, which said trash can be particularly problematic for farmers when animals eat it or it gets picked up into machines along with crops.

When the Virginia Department of Transportation launched a new anti-littering campaign last year, the agency said the state spends about $3.5 million per year to pick up roadside trash, much of it intentionally thrown out by motorists.

If the bill wins final passage, the maximum fine would stay at $2,500.

The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.