Littering: Causes, Results & Possible Solutions

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Festive seasons are common times in Botswana when littering is high. Littering is making a place or area untidy with rubbish, or incorrectly disposing waste. Littering causes pollution, a major threat to the environment.  People are responsible for littering.

Laziness and carelessness by many people cause littering. Laziness and carelessness results in a culture of habitual littering. Carelessness makes people throw rubbish anywhere without comprehending the consequences of their actions. Some people are ignorant or underestimate the negative impacts of littering on the environment.

As a result, it is common to see people throwing papers, plastic, cigarette butts and other rubbish in public areas. Some people are aware of the impacts of littering but they believe that Council or government employees will clean up their litter.

Litter adversely affects the environment. Littering along the road, on the streets or by the litter bins can be blown or washed into rivers, forests, lakes and oceans, and, eventually can pollute waterways, soil or aquatic environments. Litter also reduces air quality due to the smell and toxic/chemical vapor emanating from the trash.

A polluted environment can encourage the spread of diseases. Toxic chemicals and disease-causing microorganisms in the trash may also contaminate water systems and spread water-borne diseases which can negatively affect the health of both animals and humans if unclean or untreated water is consumed.

Cigarette butts can take more than 10 years to decompose because of cellulose acetate. As a result, cigarette butts are a serious threat to the environment, as they contain toxic substances like arsenic which can contaminate soil and water. Plastic litter is another threat to the environment and its inhabitants. When consumed by animals, they reduce the stomach capacity since they cannot be digested. In the long-term it affects the animals’ eating habits, eventually killing the animals especially livestock.

Some of the materials may also be poisonous or contain sharp objects therefore damaging the animal’s vital organs or severely injuring them. Littering is also too expensive for a council and the country, society, and individuals. Cleaning up litter requires a huge amount of money that is financed by taxpayers that could be used in more productive ways.

Littered places are visually displeasing, and they depreciate the aesthetic and real value of the surrounding environments. Littering also affects tourism as it makes destination areas and roadsides look disgusting and tourists tend to avoid staying and even visiting areas that are littered. Furthermore, littering can lead to car accidents. Some trash in the road is enough to create a dangerous situation that could result in serious injuries or death.

The ideal way to handle the problem of littering is for each member of society or those who will be celebrating Christmas and new year to take responsibility and try their best to properly dispose waste.

In addition, measures must be taken by appropriate local authorities to ensure more garbage bins are installed in various areas for effective garbage disposal. Installing enough garbage bins in town centers, walking routes, public areas, and near bus stops as well as fast-food restaurants offer convenience in disposing and collecting litter. To avoid additional problems due to overfilling, the bins must be emptied regularly. In addition, enforcing strict litter by-laws will encourage people not to litter in private and public places. Such laws work towards prohibiting illegal dumping and littering.

Littering penalties and other enforcement measures are common practices worldwide. However, the challenge is that authorities cannot fine someone unless they see them litter. Authorities during the festive seasons in Botswana generally unable to see or know who left litter in picnic areas or any other area where a celebration was undertaken.

While penalties have a real effect on littering behaviour, education and raising awareness is crucial in guaranteeing long-term results. Community clean up events can be an effective way for spreading anti-litter messages in society. The issue can also be incorporated in bulletin boards, TV programs, social media platforms, and newsletters in a more intensive way to spread the message widely.

Furthermore, anti-littering signs can be placed in highly littered areas such as the streets near public transport stations. These signs should serve to constantly remind people that littering is a bad thing that should be avoided. Rewards can also be given to people for not littering to encourage a culture against littering. For example, shopping vouchers can be given to families for their positive disposal behaviour. This can be publicized in the media or social networks to encourage others to dispose of litter properly.

Let’s avoid Littering during the Christmas and New Year festive seasons.

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