Dirty habits are hard to get rid of

Rubbish is seen along the beach at Pasir Panjang.

PERHAPS it was a coincidence. Maybe even a sign. Just as the Eye was reading a report on the top 10 cleanest countries in the world, the phone started beeping with incoming photos.

Depressing photos taken by a friend who had decided to take a stroll along a public beach not too far from Kuching.

Photos depicting overflowing rubbish bin at this particular public beach, litter around the picnic facilities, ponds filled with rubbish and more litter along the beach. There was even a photo of a used disposable diaper just left on the ground, where the parent probably changed the child.

“Please share these photos with everyone,” the accompanying message read. “Please show people how disgusting and irresponsible they are.” The photos were taken at Pasir Panjang beach.

What else is new? The Eye has written many times about how we love to litter.  How it is just too much effort for us to walk a few metres to a rubbish bin. How it is too difficult for us to carry along our trash with us after visiting a park or a recreational spot.

It is so much easier isn’t it to leave that empty water bottle just where you were sitting on the beach. Very convenient to just leave the dirty diaper where you had just done a diaper change on your child. The satay stick and plastic bag that contained the chilli sauce from the barbecued chicken that you just ate? Ah, just stick it into the sand-lah. Later the waves will wash it away right?

Sad isn’t it, the mentality of our people? Makes you wonder, do they do the same in their own homes? Eye would love to check out their homes and gardens.

Maybe there’s a bottle or two here, plastic bags half buried in the ground there, keropok wrappers stuffed between the crevasses of the walls?

Highly unlikely. Again, as Eye have written over the years, most people do not care about places other than their own homes.

As long as the rubbish isn’t within their own compounds, it doesn’t matter. Out of sight, out of mind is the expression Eye like to use when referring to litterbugs.

It doesn’t matter that they throw it there or here. They’re not going to see it again. Someone is bound to pick it up right? That is why there are people who work as cleaners.

But who is going to pick up the rubbish in public areas where cleaners are not engaged? Who is going to pick up that water bottle you threw into the monsoon drain, which got washed out into a river and eventually ended up on a beach somewhere?

Going back to the report on the 10 cleanest countries in the world, based on the Environmental Performance Index (EPI) put together by Columbia and Yale.

Singapore ranked 10th. No surprise there. Their strict, almost obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) laws, effective enforcement and hefty fines definitely worked in disciplining the people there. With such superb waste management and enforcement, it would not be an exaggeration to say that no one dares to even leave a drop of sweat on the streets of Singapore.

Of course, the EPI also takes into account green technology and industrial emissions. The cleanest country in the world is Iceland. Malaysia ranks 51 out of 178 countries.

Sometime in the last quarter of 2014, the federal government announced that it would make it mandatory for Malaysians to separate their household waste. In other words, you have to sort your trash out into several categories like plastic, paper, cardboard, glass, metal, food waste, and farm waste.

The Eye isn’t too sure if this will also eventually be enforced here in Sarawak. It would definitely help our environment, making it easier to recycle instead of just having our daily rubbish dumped at dump sites. It is reported that an average Malaysian throws out 1.64kg of rubbish a day, which is approximately half a kg more than the worldwide average. Go on, do the math and figure out how much we collectively throw out each day.

It does seem disgusting doesn’t it, come think about it. All the rubbish that we produce. Have you ever given a thought to where it all goes?

Doesn’t really matter right? As long as the rubbish collection truck comes around and takes it all away. Why should we care? It is not like we are being paid to care for our rubbish.

That is how many of us would think, not realising that we will be ‘paid’ in the long run if we did care.

We would be ‘paid’ in return with a clean and healthy environment to live in. We would be ‘paid’ with beautiful scenery.

Unfortunately, people do not seem to like thinking long-term. Sad isn’t it?

Depressing isn’t it to know that the few who do care face an endless battle trying to convince others to actually care about their rubbish.

Comments can reach the writer via columnists@theborneopost.com.

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