Keeping it clean: It starts with you!

Published: April 24, 2013
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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.

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