Time to penalise litterbugs – lecturer

KOTA KINABALU: Strict enforcement and penalty against the culprit behind the indiscriminate dumping of waste and garbage were the only remedies to the littering problems here and in Tunku Abdul Rahman Park.

According to Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) lecturer Datuk Dr Chua Kim Hing, it is high time for the relevant authorities to strictly enforce the penalties against litterbugs.

He said litterbugs were deliberate in their action when they litter.

Dr Chua, who is also the former City Hall director general, has championed the anti-littering campaign during his tenure, said that too much emphasis has been given to cleaning up people’s mess rather than nipping off the problem in its bud when it came to addressing litter and waste problems here.

“All this while, we have been focusing on cleaning up the people’s mess. They throw, we collect. This has got to change. The focus has to shift into making the people stop littering and disposing of their waste indiscriminately,” he stressed.

Among the programmes focusing on cleaning up the people’s waste were the joint community efforts to conduct cleanliness campaigns, and even the plastic bag usage reduction campaign, he said.

“We conducted a lot of programmes to pick up the waste left deliberately by people. That means we’re cleaning up after them.”

He also opined that the programme to reduce plastic bags usage has also failed to address the number of plastic wastes thrown indiscriminately by irresponsible litterbugs.

“I am not looking down on the campaign. But my observation is that people have continued to use them and throw them. The use of plastic bags has been disallowed on our islands, yet, we can see that plastic wastes have continued to be left behind there.

“Perhaps the people working there are the culprit behind. Irrespective of that, tour operators, resorts and their customers must not be allowed to sully our islands with their trash,” he stressed.

Also a prevalent problem is the littering of cigarette buds by smokers, he said.

“It is a serious problem. We get thousands of cigarette buds thrown on our streets everyday.”

He added that smokers keen on making the city clean could adopt a simple practice that would stop them from littering the streets with their habits.

“I encourage them to carry a pocket ashtray wherever they go. When they finish smoking, simply place the buds inside the pocket ashtray and dispose of them properly inside the garbage bin,” he said.

It is because of unending littering issues that Dr Chua proposes for the Sabah Park to get the resorts, divers, and tour operators operating on the islands, as well as with the local communities, to address the waste problem.

“It has to start with the resorts. They must show their sincerity in addressing the problem. And only after that shall we move to include the local communities. It will be easier to include them into the programme when they see the resorts doing their part,” he said.

He also reminded that changing the culture of littering among the people would not be an easy feat, adding that in Japan, the duration taken to change were 30 years.

“We would be fortunate if it could occur within three years,” he said.

He added that if he were to place himself in the shoes of the folks living on the water village in Pulau Gaya, he might also practise indiscriminate dumping of wastes, simply because everyone else was doing it.

“But we can stop,” he said optimistically, I have a formula for this.”

The formula shared by Dr Chua was not rocket science, as it turned out.

“For a start, get one or two people to stop throwing garbage indiscriminately, and then recruit other people to do the same. Just continue with the effort even if there are no other disciples following the act. Even if the effort takes years or perpetually, just go on with it,” he advised.

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