An effective solid waste management system should ensure proper collection and processing of the waste from households, institutions, industries, and public spaces. Among these, waste collection from the public spaces is particularly challenging due to littering, wide geographical extent, and difficulty in monitoring. Waste littering in the public spaces is a big menace in most of the urban areas attributed to the common public including the pedestrians, motorists, tourists, construction workers, etc.
What is littering?
Littering comprises practices such as leaving items overflowing besides a dust bin, abandoning the waste items, and deliberate throwing of waste items in the open areas. More commonly, the litter includes food wrappers, soft drinks, and water bottles, plastic bags, cigarette butts, tissues, and papers that are disposed of along the street, roadways, forests, and hills.
There are severe consequences of littering such as soil pollution, water pollution, air pollution, adverse health impacts, clogging of the drainage system, huge waste clean-up costs, and loss in aesthetic and recreational value . The litter is also blown away by wind and washed by rain, and gets mixed with the water bodies, and eventually finds its way to the oceans affecting marine biodiversity. Gravely, around 1.9 billion tonnes of litter end up in the ocean every year. Considering this critical issue, the present article aims to investigate the causes of littering and propose possible solutions to eradicate littering.
- Lack of knowledge of the impacts of littering
Many people are unaware of the negative environmental impacts of littering and, as a result, continue to throw litter anywhere without thinking of their environmental consequences. They regard that their litter being a small amount, will not have a big impact on the environment and can be assimilated by the environment.
- Misperceptions about the waste management
There are also certain misperceptions among the people about waste management such as local government is solely responsible for cleaning up the areas and the people have no responsibility to manage their litter. Some people also perceive that the waste storage is harmful and, therefore, they quickly litter to get rid of their waste. Moreover, people usually believe that littering is allowed in an area where litter is already present.
- Attitudinal barriers
The attitudinal barriers refer to the inherent attitudes of the people that lead to littering. Such attitudes can include laziness, carelessness, stubborn behavior (resistance to change), and pack behavior. Typically, people are lazy to put the trash in the litter bins and, therefore, throw the litter through the windows of the cars, buses, and trains. Some people are careless about the effects of their rubbish on the environment and some others have stubborn behavior being resistant to change their behaviors. This is more commonly observed in old people. Lastly, the pack behavior referred to as the tendency of being influenced by the majority generally refrains the people from properly disposing of the trash.
- Structural barriers
The structural barriers pertain to lack of infrastructure & service and lenient law enforcement. For instance, an inadequate number of trash containers and irregular waste collection service lead to the overloading of the containers and scattering of litter. In addition, low on-site fines for littering and a lax monitoring system to check littering incidences are insufficient to prevent littering. The mechanism of controlling the litter from the construction sites such as the worker’s lunchtime waste and the building waste is also generally not in place.
Possible solutions to prevent littering
- Education & awareness generation through IEC campaigns
The information, education, and communication (IEC) campaigns are the most effective tools to counter the behavioral barriers. The SWM Rules, 2016 also direct ULBs to create public awareness through IEC campaigns . The campaigns should develop an awareness of the harmful impacts of littering and the individual’s responsibility to manage the litter. Community clean-up events and anti-litter campaigns should be held, and the littering issues should be highlighted on bulletin boards, TV programs, and social media platforms. Stop-littering signs should be placed in high-littered areas and those that are prone to littering, such as the streets near public transport stations and the daily routes followed by pedestrians and commuters. The people should be encouraged to follow the measures such as reducing and reusing the waste, waste disposal in the litter bins, and carrying a litter bag. Notably, children and youth should be actively involved in the IEC campaigns for influencing the attitudes of the common public.
- Infrastructural arrangements by the local authorities
An adequate number of twin litter bins should be installed by the local authority and the bins should be regularly emptied to prevent littering. The twin Litter Bins may be provided at a spacing of 25m to 250m depending on the local conditions, and the waste should be segregated into wet and dry waste. The twin litter bins should be installed in town centers, gardens, tourist spots, walking routes, and near bus stops as well as fast-food restaurants.
- Enforcing strict litter laws
The enforcement of litter laws should be strengthened by creating awareness of litter laws and levying higher on-site fines for littering as well as providing rewards for proper disposal of litter. Therefore, littering penalty notices should be displayed in public places and the fines should be increased to instill seriousness among the people. Besides, positive behaviors should be publicized on social media by providing rewards such as shopping vouchers to the people who properly dispose of the litter .
For improved monitoring, a higher number of manpower and CCTV cameras should be deployed at the locations prone to littering. Additionally, littering of construction & demolition (C&D) waste should be strictly prohibited, and must not be deposited in open or covered drains.
Waste littering in public spaces is a widespread issue and leads to severe consequences on the environment, human health, and economy. Therefore, it demands immediate attention to design and implement solutions that prevent littering. As a first stage, the causes of littering relevant to the specific location and context should be assessed through surveys and monitoring. Accordingly, the strategy should be determined to address the specific causes which may pertain to the gaps in knowledge, perceptions, attitudes, waste collection infrastructure, and litter regulations. The strategy should also be customized in line with the perspectives, socio-economic status, and cultural background of the concerned stakeholders.
The potential strategies include conducting IEC campaigns to create public awareness, strengthening infrastructural arrangements and waste collection service, and enforcing strict litter regulations. The local authorities should aim for the effective and efficient delivery of these strategies. To this pursuit, the services of a competent consulting agency may also be availed to leverage upon their expertise.
Contributed By- Anirudha Pandav, Manager at Social Lab
Social Lab Environmental Solutions is a waste management company, which helps brands take-back and scientifically dispose of post-consumer plastic waste of their products. Brands take our services to fulfill Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) obligation under Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2018.
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