How Does Littering Waste Resources?
Littering is a big problem everywhere in the world. It is the action of improper disposal of waste products. Littering can occur on purpose or unintentionally but it will affect the environment and waste resources regardless.
Littering causes pollution, kills wildlife and also facilitates the spread of disease. In this blog post, we will look at littering, how it wastes resources and any potential solutions to solve this problem.
Littering In Singapore
There are some people that throw trash anywhere they like.
In a year-long study done by NEA, we have the following statistics from a survey.
62.6% of respondents say that they do not litter. 36.2% of respondents admit it is bad but still litter due to convenience or if they do not expect to be caught. The remaining 1.2% admits that they litter most of the time.
I expect the statistics to be over-reported in habitual binners and under-reported in situational binners and litterbugs as people tend to discount their bad habits and not admit that they are doing something wrong.
Why Do People Litter?
In 2019, over 40,000 tickets were issued for littering offences. Some enforcement officers also faced physical and verbal abuse.
Here are some of the reasons given by the litterbugs on why they litter
- Lack of litter bins
- The belief that they will not get caught
- Lack of visible enforcement
- Flicking cigarette butt is an acceptable norm
- Force of habit and convenience
- The difference in littering’s definition
- Acceptable to litter when the place is already dirty
- Cleaners will clean up after them
When confronted by enforcement officers, the litterbugs gave a series of responses to attempt to defend themselves
- I didn’t do it
- I accidentally dropped it
- Littering doesn’t hurt anyone
- I wanted to throw it in a bin but I need to get rid of it immediately
- Everyone litters
I feel that all the reasons given are not valid. They are just excuses for not doing the right thing. They actually managed to rationalize littering by giving reasons that they think makes it ok to litter.
There is still a lot to do when a high percentage of youths and adults feel that it is the government’s responsibility instead of an individual or shared responsibility to keep public places clean.
The reason for such a high percentage could also be the interpretation of the survey questions. Does keeping a place clean include not littering? Or does it only mean cleaning up after the place is dirty?
I think we should place more emphasis on the issue of littering before the issue of clearing up litter in public spaces. With less littering, there will be less need to clear up any litter due to the lower amounts of trash.
The Effects OF Littering
Littering creates a mess and when the wind blows, the trash flies everywhere.
First, it makes the environment look terrible. I wanted to use some littering photos online but I decided to just go downstairs and take a few photos.
SG Clean Day, a government initiative, is trying to the amount of litter generated by ceasing sweeping in public areas to show how much litter is there without cleaners. With the cleaners, we can already see a lot of litter. Without them, the amount of litter will probably be many times the amount we usually see.
Next, when the litter gets into forests and water bodies like rivers, forests, lakes and oceans, it will eventually pollute waterways, soil or aquatic environments. The pollution will harm the ecosystem and also get back into our food sources. Microplastics are already found in wild fish. Litter is also a breeding ground for bacteria and diseases.
Thirdly, unnecessary resources and steps have to be spent to clear up the litter. We need to hire cleaners and purchase tools and machinery to get rid of the litter.
If the litter can be disposed of correctly, we can minimize the impact on the environment and waste fewer resources getting rid of the trash. Dumping our trash into landfills is already bad enough, let’s not make it worse by wasting additional resources gathering up the litter.
Marine Litter By The Coast
Even if there is no littering within Singapore, there is trash that arrives at our coasts by sea.
The wind blows from the south or southeast between June and September. The trash from various sources accumulates on the shores of neighbouring countries and islands, including Singapore coastlines like East Coast Park.
Sources of Marine Litter Arriving In Singapore
- Illegal discharge of waste from ships
- Disposal of waste illegally into the sea from fish farms
- Illegal dumping of waste into the sea by companies
- Waste floating in from neighbouring countries
- Litter in the canals and drains leading to the sea
- Waste blown from inland to the coast
- Littering by beachgoers
There is less incentive to care when the trash does not end up in your backyard. As the recipient of marine litter from external sources, we can do little to nothing internally.
Ocean Garbage Patches
There is a huge patch of trash floating around the sea and it’s not the only one.
Natural wind patterns, ocean gyres, circle large areas of non-moving water. Litter drifts into these areas and they accumulate there for years and create big garbage patches.
The five main accumulation zones are
- Indian Ocean Garbage Patch
- North Atlantic Garbage Patch
- Great Pacific Garbage Patch
- South Atlantic Gyre
- South Pacific Gyre
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) is the largest of the five offshore plastic accumulation zones in the world’s oceans. The GPGP covers an estimated surface area of 1.6 million km². This is almost 2,200 times the area of Singapore (728.3 km²). There is also about 80,000 tonnes of plastic in the GPGP which is equivalent to the weight of 500 Jumbo Jets.
Volunteering Efforts On Clearing Litter
There are several groups in Singapore organizing regular cleaning up of our environment.
- Restore Ubin Mangrove Initiative
- SG Clean Ambassadors Network
- UnLitter Red Dot
- Clean Singapore Learning Trail
Such efforts are good but we will need less of such efforts if there is less man-made litter. We can focus our resources on litter that we cannot control e.g. not man-caused or on education.
Strategies To Curb Littering
Singapore has employed various strategies to curb littering
- Increase availability and accessibility of bins
- Stricter and more visible enforcement
- Education and public outreach
- Community involvement
The most important step is education. We need to make sure that everyone has a habit inculcated since young that littering is wrong.
Japan’s Mentality About Trash
In Japan, 12 years from elementary school to high school, cleaning time is part of students’ daily schedule. They not only sweep the classroom and wipe the whiteboards but also their toilets. This helps the children develop an awareness and pride in their environment.
Source: AP Photo
All of us will remember the Japanese fans making headlines cleaning up after themselves and others after Japan vs Columbia during the 2018 world cup.
If we can be more like Japan with regards to littering, Singapore will then truly be a clean and green city.
It is not debatable whether littering is bad. It creates a mess and also pollutes the environment and has already affected our food sources. We have to work together globally as litter has arrived on our shores via the sea. Littering wastes unnecessary resources that can be avoided. We need to start young and inculcate the habit of not littering.