Gray Matter


Litter in the Philippines

RT Cunningham | February 2, 2021 (UTC) | Culture

litterLitter is a big problem in many countries, not just the Philippines. It just seems more pervasive in the Philippines to me because I get to see it more there than anywhere else.

The United States was just like that in the 1960s and early 1970s. I used to see empty beer bottles and cans, along with soda bottles, along the roads I traveled on while biking. The key phrase is “used to see”.

Litter in the United States

The amount of roadside litter today, as well as litter in most public areas, pales in comparison to how it used to be. A lot of nonprofit environment campaigns started in the 1970s. The one I remember the most is the public service announcement sponsored by the Keep America Beautiful organization in 1971. It featured the “Crying Indian”. [Due to political correctness, American Indians are now called Native Americans.]

Litter law enforcement efforts and public awareness campaigns since then have “educated” the public about the effects of pollution. Discarded aluminum cans and glass bottles were artificially inflated in value as an incentive to recycle them.

You can still see trash lying around in various places, but it’s usually in areas where very few people seem to go or in areas where no one at all seems to go. There will always be trash around waste cans because people can’t seem to aim.

Litter in the Philippines

There are people who suggest that littering in the Philippines is a cultural thing. It really isn’t. If it is, then it’s a cultural thing in a lot of countries. Parents need to be taught to dispose of garbage properly and then teach it to their children. Or maybe the other way around.

I watched people sitting in front of the creek by my house in Olongapo and toss garbage into the creek without a second thought about it. I paid people at least once a year to clean up that part of the creek before rainy season started. It would have ended up in the ocean eventually if I ignored it (along with everyone else).

I saw children and adults alike in the street throw junk food wrappers right where they were quite a few times over the years. Asking them why wouldn’t serve any purpose. Trash on the ground doesn’t have the same negative stigma there as it does elsewhere.

I bought a large garbage bin for my compound in 2015. After I saw a couple of nieces throwing trash less than 10 feet away from it, I made them pick it up and put it in the bin. I told their parents to teach their children and I don’t like repeating myself. They still throw trash where it shouldn’t be thrown to this day, but I’m not there right now to do anything about it.

There isn’t any incentive to stop littering in the Philippines. That is, other than someone not wanting to see it. Attitudes need to change, and I have no idea how to make them change.

Photo Attribution: Øyvind Holmstad, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Edited and updated. Originally published at one of my other websites in August 2018.

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