in reply to No garbage collection for my-variables
It's the case anyway that for large strings (which is the only case we need to consider) it's much more efficient to pass around references. And code that expects to deal with very long strings generally does that, or encapsulates the strings in an object or deals with file handles directly.
Copying 500Mb strings around would be stupid not just for memory reasons even if all the memory gets reclaimed when the variables holding them go out of scope. You really do want to pay attention to what you're doing when dealing with large chunks of memory.
Perl is optimizing here for the cases where you want fast, repeated processing of strings no larger than say 10% of your memory. If you need to process larger strings, you'll have to pay attention anyway, and automatically clearing all scalars won't really help much (and it would dramatically slow down the general case).
I don't see the current behaviour changing until someone completes a perl with a garbage collector instead of the current refcounting scheme. That would be perl 6, so it may take a while.
update: I just wanted to mention that although all of this is interesting in a way, it's very unlikely that this behaviour has given you any actual problems. Just don't slurp in giant files, or Encode a whole dictionary in one call. What's wrong with reading and writing stuff line by line? That way, you can run thousands of those programs at once without any problem (or a couple at once, so as to actually use your CPU for something useful, instead of waiting for the drive to catch up).