On the ground you see a rusty shortsword, a worn leather jacket, an empty treasure chest, a rusty shortsword, a rusty shortsword, a pinewood vial, a tree branch, a tree branch, a rusty shortsword, and the corpse of a baby rat.No only is the unsightliness of the litter an issue, but some developers insist on spamming nearby players when some litter gets necessarily removed, the result being a very poorly-disguised waste management system:
A hooded gremlin hops from a nearby bush to snatch a worn leather jacket, then disappears back into the underbrush.
A rusty shortsword crumbles to dust.Any player with a brain can see through this - and your players have brains, otherwise they would be playing World of Warcraft instead of your game. I get that the shortsword is rusty, but suddenly crumbling to dust? I once played a game where there was literally a "janitor" NPC who wandered around (even in the forest, and in dungeons) picking up unwanted items and putting them in his cart. Ugh.
Why even bother with all the junk? If it's lying on the ground, it's either not useful, or at least useful to very few. My suggestion - just don't list it, and allow players who put it there to pick it up with the GET command if they want it. When the collection of junk in an area gets too big, just delete the oldest item and don't tell anybody (they don't care anyway - it's been lying there a while).
A developer could even turn this into an opportunity for a new game mechanic - now when a player "searches" an area, depending on his perception or search or foraging skill (however you care to label it), he may find items discarded by other players, OR some items always available in the area (twigs, branches, mushrooms, etc). Now foraging becomes more interesting (and maybe more realistic) because it occasionally turns up old items, giving the area a sense of history and the game a sense of persistence. When you're foraging for mushrooms in a forest infested with goblins, you might occasionally discover an old shortsword, or a piece of goblin armor discarded by another adventurer. Need some free basic gear? Maybe if you poke around outside the blacksmith's shop, you'll find a hand-me-down.
Further, a player might intentionally hide something for the short term, so that he can come back and pick it up later. Is that treasure chest too heavy to carry? Hide it in the underbrush for now, and come back with lockpicking tools in a few minutes so that you can take the contents rather than the whole chest. Sure, someone might find it if they're looking, but that's the risk you take!