KUCHING: Littering appears to be ingrained in our culture despite the availability of ample garbage bins, said academician Nurzawani Sofwan.
Nurzawani who is a senior lecturer from the Centre for Environmental Health and Safety Studies, Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) Sarawak questioned why this behaviour is still prevalent in society.
“The children have been taught about cleanliness and morals since kindergarten,” she said,” “there are some topics on this subject even in primary school. However, the culture of public littering still persists.”
“The most effective to cultivate the cleanliness practice is to do it.
“Take Japanese, for example, where students are taught to clean up their own messes and to bring any garage they create at home to dispose of,” she told New Sarawak Tribune.
Nurzawani advised that citizens must be aware of how improper waste disposal can have an impact not only on the environment but also on their livelihood, health and socioeconomic status.
“Many of us may be unconcerned about the environment as if it does not affect our lives.
“Hence, public littering awareness must include all aspects that have a greater impact on humans.
“Littering will contaminate soil and water, harming animals and destroying crops, contributing to flooding and ultimately affecting people’s daily lives.
“Littering in public places, such as beaches, reduces the aesthetic value of the area, resulting in a loss for the tourism industry and a negative image of our country,” she added.
She noted that the attempts to change citizen behaviour are deeply embedded in the community and expressed her sadness to witness a heap of trash strewn next to the bin, even if the bin is still empty.
Nurzawani also suggested that the municipality can introduce a behaviour change programme such as anti-littering to instil litter prevention behaviour among the community.
“Other interventions, such as a routine checks at the wet market area by the authority or an elected supervisor among the operators, are required to ensure that the market operator cleans up before closing.
“Such routine practices can help an individual develop self-discipline,” she explained.
Nurzawani stressed that littering is a crime and enforcement of littering laws are enacted in the Environmental Quality Act 1974, Local Government Act 1976 and Street, Drainage and Building Act 1974 where the sanctions for breaches of environmental laws under the EQA 1974 are punishable with fines or jail terms.
“Serious littering issues are also a form of public nuisance which can be reported to the local authority or Department of Environment.
“Multidisciplinary action from individuals, communities and relevant authorities is needed to curb this problem,” she stated.