Keeping it clean: It starts with you!

Published: April 24, 2013

Alina Akhyar, Founder of Ronaq e Qainaat, cleaning in Chaklala Scheme 3, Rawalpindi. PHOTO: RONAQ-E-QAINAAT.

The authors of this post are Heraa Farooq and Tamreez Inam.

Pakistan’s cities and towns are teeming with litter. With exponential population growth, increase in plastic packaging of food and other items and lack of a decent waste management system, let alone recycling facilities, our cities are unable to cope with the massive amounts of waste generated on a daily basis.

While all these issues can be handled at the macro level with better planning, governance and educational initiatives, they may take a while to show results.

However, there is something very simple and instantaneous which ordinary citizens can do by themselves, stop littering.

Inspire Pakistan is promoting anti-littering along with other social and environmental initiatives as part of its year-long campaign Pakistan Resolution 2013. The idea is very simple. Change starts with us. As part of the campaign, ordinary citizens can make a simple resolution for Pakistan and the campaign would then motivate and encourage them to act upon that resolution by sharing information and organising various events and activities throughout the year in which they can participate.

(Volunteers cleaning up Chaklala Scheme 3, Rawalpindi. Photo: Ronaq-e-Qainaat)

This Earth Day (April 22,2013), team Inspire Pakistan joined hands with other socially responsible organisations and groups to clean up our streets and markets as part of its anti-litter drive. City cleanups were organised in Lahore (Barkat Market, Garden Town) in collaboration with Heal Pakistan, Rawalpindi (Chaklala Scheme 3) led by Ronaq-e-Qainaat and Islamabad (F-10 Markaz) with The Do Good Mob.

In addition to the above, the cleanups were supported by a host of entities including Lahore Waste Management Company (LWMC), Warid Telecom and Shashca.

(Volunteers cleaning up Barkat Market, Lahore. Photo: Heal Pakistan (via Sohail’s Photography)

The primary objective of this activity was to clean up rubbish hot spots, increase awareness of the scale and the impact of rubbish in the region, work towards changing local community behaviour and work towards improving waste management and recycling infrastructure in the region.

All the cleanups received a welcoming response from the public; with around 80 people participating in Lahore and good turnouts in Islamabad and Rawalpindi as well.

(Volunteers cleaning up F-10 Markaz, Islamabad. Photo: The Do Good Mob)

While waste collection is the job of local authorities, the teams who cleaned up the streets wanted to emphasise the importance of citizens’ civic responsibility and collaboration between citizens, local authorities and the business community. In this regard, they engaged with the Lahore Waste Management Company (LWMC), Capital Development Authority (CDA) and also the local shop owners and traders’ unions.

In Lahore, the LWMC contributed in providing waste bins, bags, brooms and a garbage collector. The local businessmen provided equipment like tables, chairs and also water bottles and drinks. Local traders and businessmen didn’t only appreciate the cause; quite a few actually participated in the cleaning. In Islamabad, some shop owners agreed to install waste bins outside their shops for which they would take responsibility.

(Inspire Pakistan team members Madiha Khan and Sardar Zaheer speaking to the media about the activity. Photo: The Do Good Mob)

One-off activities with no sustained advocacy generally don’t bear results. So the teams hope to continue their engagement on the issue with regular follow ups.

Why do people litter?

Here’s what we found:

  • Personal choice.  Individual behaviour—or choosing to litter—means litter on the ground.  81% of littering was intentional, e.g. flinging, or dropping.  On the other hand, individuals who hold the belief that littering is wrong, and consequently feel a personal obligation not to litter, are less likely to do so.
  • Litter begets litter.  Individuals are much more likely to litter into a littered environment.  And once there, it attracts more litter.  By contrast, a clean community discourages littering and improves overall community quality of life.  Availability and proximity to trash and recycling bins also impact whether someone chooses to litter.
  • It’s “not my responsibility”.  Some people feel no sense of ownership for parks, walkways, and other public spaces. They believe someone else will pick up after them; that it’s not their responsibility.

(Omer Jamil, President of Heal Pakistan leading by example. Photo: Heal Pakistan (via Sohail’s Photography)

How to put a stop to littering:

To eliminate litter, we have to address both the littering behaviour and place emphasis on changing the environment.

Traditional approaches to litter, most particularly clean-up projects, work only to remove litter and do little to prevent its recurrence. Changing attitudes and influencing behaviour are brought about most effectively using a combination of methods:

  • Garbage bins – local authorities need to ensure that trash cans are installed in all major markets, streets and parks. But more importantly, that they are also emptied regularly.
  • Education Education and awareness are bedrock tools of behaviour change. Public education programs should be conducted with the partnership of schools, government bodies, NGOs, and business community.
  • Ordinances Changing public policy through laws is one way to change behaviours around quality of life and environmental issues.
  • Enforcement Consistent and effective enforcement of existing codes, laws, and ordinances helps change behavior and reinforce the commitment to a cleaner, greener community.
  • Tools and Resources This can include such tangible things as litter pick up tools, sanitation collection vehicles, graffiti removal equipment, litter or trash receptacles, and recycling bins.

What you can do to prevent litter:

Changing a common behaviour, like littering, starts with us. Each person must accept responsibility for their actions and influence the actions of others around them at home, at school, in our place of business, and in the community at large. Sometimes, even with good intentions we are unable to stick to our decisions. The team at Inspire Pakistan is asking people to make the decision or resolution and then they would help them in taking action upon it by regular reminders and organised activities to sustain momentum. You can also make a resolution on their website to join the campaign.

We all have a role to play in preventing litter. It takes just one person, one school, one business, one organisation to positively impact the behaviour of others in their community. Now is the time to get started.

Read more by Tamreez here, or follow her on Twitter @tamreezinam

Follow Heraa on Twitter @heraafarooq 

Blogs Desk

Blogs Desk

The Express Tribune Blogs desk.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Stranger

    One suggestion is make dustbins marked degradable( leather/ paper/ clothes/ cardboard/ bottles ) and non degradable ( plastic ) at regular locations .This will further encourage people to ‘litter’ correctly . Like in France even if you buy one small thing you are expected to get your own bag. if not they charge a nominal sum for their platic bag ( EG : 0.10 pence) .Also at many stategic locations like the roads / houses / stations / public places/ buildings not to mention schools and hospitals have scores of huge big dustbins with big markers saying which one for degradable and which one for non. these thigns will help people ‘litter’ responsibily.Recommend

  • Anon

    I happened to be in Barket Market few months ago and after eating Shawarma, i could not find a waste-bin to throw the wrapping. I walked around half of the market and eventually went in a Bakery for a drink and found a tiny waste-bin there.

    The simplest and quickest way to clean up the city is to provide clearly visible waste-bins which are emptied regularly.Recommend

  • Heal Pakistan

    Yes, we have made sure to implement such through the support and involvement of the local stakeholders, e.g. this traders community in this case. With the support of LWMC, dumpsters are proposed to be installed at “Convenient Distance” which in itself shall be a motivational factor towards ‘littering correctly’ as you just suggested.

    Tamreez has put it so right, it starts with you! We have to take up the initiative, the responsibility and the challenge starting with our streets, shops and there would be a day when our clean streets would expand to a clean town to a clean city to a clean Pakistan we so strive for! Let’s start today ;-)Recommend

  • Heal Pakistan

    For as long as we don’t have waste-bins/dumpsters at convenient distances, let’s opt the closely convenient alternatives such as having a collector bag in our cars, asking for a stall/shopkeeper for a dustbin, utilizing the yellow big dumpsters placed by LWMC and/or local development authorities in the locality to name a few.Recommend

  • Lilith

    An excellent article. We need to educate a lot of people when it comes to environmental cleaning. We have stopped caring about it ourselves and yet again we are the ones who whine over the dirt. The initiatives taken were a good start, and I hope it remains that way. Great work!Recommend

  • Naveed

    I believe that solution via education is incorrectly interpreted to mean “send a kid to school and he will stop littering” which would imply that educated/literate people do not litter. this is incorrect. every day i see people belonging to educated backgrounds, working in high end jobs at good firms, throwing away rubbish just becuase they dont want to take the pain of looking for a waste bin or the idea of holding on to the wrapper or bottle is sacrilegious. lack of ownership has been correctly identified by the author as a primary reason for this situation.

    awareness is the number one weapon here, becuase a person who is aware that this is a wrong deed, will take the pain of keeping the litter with him/her until he/she is in close proximity of a waste disposal unit.

    law and enforcement is the next item to be tackled (for the rest of the littering lot) the police needs to stop a speeding, tinted car throwing red bulls left right and center and fine the culprit 5000 rupees. ditto for pedestrians. imagine the revenue you’d get out of this simple implementation. THAT will bring an end to this problem.

    organizations like HEAL will keep on cleaning (and spreading awareness within a small segment of society in the process) whereas the “litterati” will keep at it.

    Good LuckRecommend

  • Heal Pakistan

    @Naveed, that’s exactly where YOU n I come in for a YOUNITED impact. I believe that critical thinkers like you should step ahead to expand the spectrum and work together for a synergized deployment of the struggle to overcome the social issues we intend to eradicate from the very society we belong to, possess and reform for mutual betterment.Recommend

  • Tamreez Inam

    @Anon: Agreed. That’s a really important point. We covered it in the article. Inspire Pakistan engaged with CDA and LWMC on this issue and would request again through follow-up letters, and petitions if need be, to make sure there are adequate number of trash cans in key market areas, streets, parks. Also, that they are regularly emptied out.Recommend

  • Tamreez Inam

    @Lilith: Thank you!Recommend

  • Tamreez Inam

    @Naveed: Yes, absolutely agree with you on all points. By education we meant awareness raising, whether through schools, media or public service message campaigns. It is not just the government’s responsibility. It’s everyone’s. Thank you for the support!Recommend

  • Parvez

    If every there was a positive write up on the ET site, its this one. There have been others but this one explains the problem and gives the solution………….great stuff.
    This story I must share :
    Coming back from a short visit from Dubai, at the airport the guy in front of me popped something into his mouth threw the paper on the floor and spat. I stopped him, smiled and said you would never have done that in Dubai, and he said ‘ absolutely not, but now I’ve come home ‘………so my reply was, more the reason why you should not have done that……..he smiled and and went on his way.
    Our DNA is so structured that we as a people do not and will not learn the gentle way, we need to be forcefully disciplined.

  • Heal Pakistan


    Thank you Parvez and Lilith.Recommend

  • Rakshinda

    This is truly inspiring. You are setting a trend that others shall follow. Recommend

  • Heal Pakistan

    @Rakshinda: Thank you!

    As of today, LWMC has installed 13 dust bins all across Barkat Market/Civic Centre, New Garden Town, Lahore as a result of our pledge acknowledged by Assistant Director LWMC Mr. Aashiq on Earth Day Clean Up. Remaining dust bins shall be installed soon.

    In addition, we made a follow-up visit to local tradesmen most of which have already pledged their full cooperation to ‘keep it clean’. A meeting with Trade Union President Mr. Amir Malik is scheduled for tomorrow to take the pledge ahead and make a ‘Model Market’ out of Civic Center, In’sha’Allah.

    The pictures of the bins can be found here on this link.Recommend

  • Ezri Jeb

    this is really inspirational and awesome, I try my best to not litter, I keep my candy and snack wrappers with me in my pockets or my bag, The way you carried out your campaign might impress many common people in the market as well, it wd give them awareness and some civic sense, many people dont even care, or bother when they litter in their own streets, schools, offices even cars, because they think its not their responsibility to clean their mess, one remedy cd be government imposing harsh fines, and strictly regulating it, Citizens of Islamabad dont bring that fine of Rs.50 in any account and continue littering where ever you go, public places have various kind of disposable soda or coffee glasses, many educated civilized people wd just throw used McDonald’s glasses, drink bottles, and paper boxes off their car windows, They needed this kick of, they needed some one to tell them that is not right civic behavior, and with this you fulfill your purpose, at least they wd get a little awareness, next time they are about to shove off their litter on the express way, they will think twice, yeah they saw common people, and concerned citizens like you cleaning up their ,mess, they might feel and little shameful as well. And yeah local councils and unions need to implant numerous new trash cans on various locations. Recommend