Sunday, March 6, 2011

Column March 6, 2011

So I've decided that this blog will also include columns and comment pieces I write. After all, I am the Devils' Advocate, in more ways than one!

Time to swat those litterbugs

SO, now we are told that the government will only start enforcing the sorting of garbage in 2013.
Despite the fact that the Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management Act was established in 2007, it will have been six years before anyone will face any sort of prosecution for not sorting their recyclables, dry and wet waste.The reason for this? People are not yet ready for it, and the government has to go on roadshows and hold education programmes to tell the public what they have to do and why.

"When we implement and enforce the Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management Act 2007, there should be no excuse for flouting the law," Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Chor Chee Heung had said recently.

All well and good. Educational programmes, awareness programmes, roadshows and what not are the way to go. But there are doubts whether such measures will do any good even by 2013.

You may call this a very pessimistic view, but can there be an optimistic one when you take into account the level of awareness on matters of hygiene that Malaysians generally have?

Is there anyone who has not seen a cigarette butt, plastic bag or other waste thrown out the window of a car? Or the same thrown on the road or five-foot way by a pedestrian?

There are even those who throw their waste on the ground even though a rubbish bin is within spitting distance. Would it have killed them to wait till they walked by the bin, then maybe take a half-step to the side so they could throw their rubbish into it?

Let's take a look at apartments and condominiums. Most have rooms on each floor specifically for garbage, with one or two bins with lids.

If you live in one of these apartments or condos, you probably know that the bins are likely to be empty but you would probably not see a single centimetre of the floor. If you decide not to clean up after your fellow apartment dwellers, picking your way through the garbage on the floor is like taking part in Wipeout on AXN.

Apparently, it's too much trouble for people to lift the lid of the bins. And these would be the middle- or high-income group we are talking about. The ones who are supposed to be better educated. "Supposed to be" would be the key phrase here.

Journalists who have covered assignments at low-cost flats, especially those which were built for squatters who had to move out of their homes because their area was being developed, will also tell you that in places like these, rubbish just gets thrown out the windows. More than a few have been splattered by household waste thrown out in such a manner.

When it comes to hygiene, Malaysians are not exactly obsessive compulsive. Especially when they are in places which are not their homes.

Public toilets are prime examples. More often than not, the blame for the lack of cleanliness of public toilets are put solely on the shoulders of the government, local councils or shopping complexes.

Rarely do we look in the mirror. The way we treat public toilets, it is no wonder they are always filthy. There are some people who don't flush. The more finicky among us actually squat on toilet bowls to avoid touching its surface with their bare skin, and consequently making it even dirtier. There are those who can't aim properly and don't even bother cleaning up after themselves.

Then, there are those who will spit or clear their noses, shooting vile-looking mucus from their mouth or nostrils onto the ground.

So, education is, indeed, important. And, education is also important in the matter of the separation of household waste. Ministry officers should go on a two-year campaign.

But, what is more important is that at the end of this education period, the law must be enforced. Enforcement is key. Without it, all the education in the world will not help.

As for us, we need to remember this: the world is your oyster, not your garbage bin.

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