The rubbish littered or uncollected trash bins in front of our house or apartment, the rubbish we stepped on while walking on the street, and the rubbish left behind at parks and waterfalls by picnickers, hikers and campers have something in common. They are all an eye sore created by irresponsible people. If you see a 10 Ringgit note you will probably pick it up, but why is it different for a used plastic bottle? Akinori Ito, a Japanese inventor will tell you otherwise. He created a portable machine (http://asia.cnet.com/crave/2010/08/31/japanese-man-s-invention-converts-plastic-back-to-oil/) that uses just electricity and heat to turn plastic back into oil. Imagine your own Dubai oil field in the comfort of your home.
Why do people litter? There are all sorts of theories to what would stop people from littering, as many as there as all sorts of excuses for littering. Some common reasons include:-
- They can’t be bother or too lazy to find a bin
- They have no sense of pride or appreciation of their community
- There is a lack of education or poor parenting of young people
- If an area is already dirty, why bother to look for a bin?
- They don’t realise the consequences of littering
- Our culture encourages “touch & go” packaging, from street stalls to fancy wrappers
- Littering will provide job for others, benefiting the economy and social welfare
- They think small litter is not littering, like cigarette ends, chewing gum, bus tickets, sweet wrappers
- They can’t find a bin, or there aren’t enough bins
- The bins are in the wrong place
- The bins aren’t emptied often enough or aren’t big enough
- There is no law or enforcement of punishment for littering
- One person can’t make a difference
- The Council aren’t doing their job properly
- There are much worse things in the world or their lives to worry about than litter
Colleen Morgan wrote on her blog (http://middlesavagery.wordpress.com/2010/06/20/why-do-people-litter/) an interesting piece on why people litter. The general perception is that people litter because their surroundings permit them to. The act of littering can harm the environment in many ways, causing injury to the area wildlife, posing threats to human health and is aesthetically displeasing. When discarded as litter, human-made materials such as plastoc, glass and aluminium cans may cause external injury to animals, or if accidentally ingested may cause starvation, poison or suffocation. These objects may also become the home for disease-spreading insects (flies, mosquitoes, cockroaches) and animals (stray dogs and cats, rats, monkeys). It can also have a detrimental effect on our economy and tourism.
So next time when you decide to throw away something, do it responsibly. I believe part of our culture is also not to voice out what we do not agree with. How many of you asked someone who litters on the street to pick it up and throw in the bin? I actually told a big mean-looking guy at the bus-stop the other day to do the right thing with his empty cigarette box. He was mumbling and slightly intimidating but he did what he was told. Perhaps he will still continue littering however I believe if we advocate others, they might just turn a new leaf.
I flinched even at seeing people litter cigarette ends (you know who you are!). Do you know that cigarette ends can take 5 to 12 years to fully biodegrade due to the cellulose acetate they contain? People tend to use the tops of trash bins to stub out their cigarettes but often leave the ends on the top of the bins. This is not only unsightly but the ends can then blow away, increasing the litter problem. Other smoking related litter includes the plastic protectors, matches, cigarette lighters. About 4.5 trillion cigarette ends are dropped worldwide every year!
We Malaysians are guilty of throwing things out of our vehicles, especially when they are on the road. Joe has seen someone threw a pillow out of a car window, yes, a pillow! The driver probably woke up with a stiff neck or bad hair day that day and decided to depart with the wornout pillow. I am guilty in the past of discarding tissues or sweet wrappers out of the car windows . I agree that making these rubbish out of my sight was liberating in some way, but it does no one good, certainly not good for the places my rubbish landed on. Today I find it more liberating to keep my snotty tissues in my pockets or bags until I found a bin to dispose of.
Waterfalls are perfect for group outings. Often we bring our entire kitchen to the place for a picnic, but we only bring back home half the kitchen. What happen to the remaining half? Some has been consumed, some accidentally dropped into the waterfalls or flowed into rivers, and some left behind because it is too much trouble to bring them out. On our last trip to Lata Khong or better known as Sungai Dua, we had an impromptu cleanup as the place was scattered with rubbish, which includes a nasty one like soiled pampers! Other equally disgusting finds in the past are bloody sanitary pads, used condoms, soiled underwears, fermented food and drinks.
Some countries have made cleanup as one of their community service program in lieu of less severe penalty sanctions. Sometimes lighter sentencing like a prescribed number of hours of community cleanup service can create a more impactful lesson compare to fines or incarceration. While some schools also introduced community cleanup service with their students to encourage eco-friendly lifestyle from young. Our cleanup campaign “Save Our Waterfalls” has became an influential activity for corporate social responsibility as well as state or government community project.
We need to treat our surroundings or places we visit like how we would treat our home. These natural places like forest, waterfalls, and beaches are god’s gift to us. There is no way these places will ever clean themselves up. Make our environment smiles instead of cries. It starts from you and me and then the other 27 million people in Malaysia.