If you're looking to junk a piece of junk mail, don't lob it into that litter receptacle you pass on the street. The move could cost you—especially if the street you're on is in Washington, D.C.

Solid waste officials in the District of Columbia found their streetside public garbage cans piled high with household garbage—material that belongs in household containers, obviously. The problem forced the city's solid waste services personnel to spend already-stretched resources on disposing waste that wasn't where it should be.

To combat the situation, the city's department of public works now regularly polices its public refuse containers, looking for illegally placed trash. Public works employees hit the streets, open sealed bags that have been deposited in the cans, remove the contents, and take pictures. If the trash detectives find evidence that the contents consist of household waste—for example, a magazine address label or an envelope with your name on it—you could be the proud new owner of a $75 ticket.

Each year, the city issues 500 litter-can tickets; only about 8% are appealed. The end result of the waste watchers program: The nation's capitol gets a little more money in its coffers while simultaneously getting more trash off of its streets.