DUCK SOUP: No Prisoners

For over a generation government campaigns have attempted to end littering. "Keep America Beautiful!" went one slogan. "Pitch in!" demanded another. "Please, please, don't be a litterbug, 'cause every litter bit hurts," sang the jingle. A crying Indian, clever cartoon characters and celebrity endorsements have come and gone. There are adopt-a-highway campaigns in every state, and prisoners trudge along roadsides picking up trash.I have looked at the result and can only say: if this is success, I tremble to think what failure would mean.But, there is a solution. A permanent solution. I have analyzed the garbage on our roads and determined that most of the junk tossed from car windows originates in fast food restaurants. Most of the rest is pitched by the same people who toss food containers. My plan can end littering in just a few weeks and will be far less expensive than current efforts. It is simple and fair. First, most public trash receptacles will be wrapped with a stripe of fire engine yellow tape. These will be the designated bins. The tape will contain a magnetic strip.Second, fast food containers and wraps will be introduced which contain tiny transmitters with magnetic switches. Such transmitters will be activated when the item falls into a designated dumpster. The signal will last thirty seconds and then fade.During this stage, an advertising blitz will announce the new program, restaurants will post notices, and burger flippers and taco toilers will tell customers about the new campaign.Finally, and at random, fast foods and drinks will be sold containing tiny poison pellets. The poison will automatically release two hours after consumption unless the pellet is deactivated by dropping the wrapper into a magnetic bin. The poison will be fast acting, painless and deadly.It won't take more than a few thousand deaths to get everyone's attention. The news media will take care of that. The only victims will be litterbugs, so innocent diners will be spared the inconvenience and awkwardness of untimely death. Anyone who prefers not to take any chances can either skip fast food, or eat inside the restaurant instead of driving away with a meal. Poison will only be served at drive-through windows.I know some people will call this extreme. But, deaths from fast food are not all that uncommon already. Toxic hamburgers killed a slew of folks a few years ago, and quick chicken is the leading cause of food poisoning. Those deaths are truly senseless -- whereas my plan has a positive social goal. Summary execution of litterbugs is high minded extermination in the great tradition of Hiroshima and Dresden and Bagdad.After a few months, dyed in the wool litterbugs will either be reformed or dead. From then on, a handful of deaths each year will prove sufficient as a gentle reminder. Eventually littering will become as unthinkable as communism. Tossing trash will be considered as perverse as wearing stripes with plaid. It is hard to overestimate the positive impact that this will produce.Think of it! All of the good folks who have adopted highways will be able to spend time beautifying their little strip of road instead of just collecting garbage. Other streets will never again tease them about being adopted. No more litter lugging for convicts, either. Prison labor can be used to turn out cheap clothing just like in China. Soon, we will live in a lovely land, where the roads are clean and rimmed with flowers. Happy families will picnic on the shoulders. We will all wear stylish and attractive outfits sewn in America. Indians will never cry again. We will all be joyous and fulfilled.The only litter left will be cigarette butts, which have their own built-in timed release solution -- though I must admit it is disappointingly slow. Maybe the short-term answer there is magnetic filters. A smoke flipped out a car window would yo-yo and stick tight. Thoughtless smokers would have strangely ornamented quarter panels and would eventually get tired of removing butts. Those in the habit of tossing without first stubbing them out might find the black pock marks annoying. Now and then a gas tank would light up, too. Here I probably sound extreme once more. But don't you think that would discourage tailgating?

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