Going green without envy

Guest contributor and social worker Vicky Ang is here to share her thoughts and passion on social issues.

Part I: All about the Trash

When I was growing up in Kuching, I remember being very proud to be from the cleanest city in Malaysia. I would silently thank the road-sweepers of making this possible every time our car drove past them. It is indeed a noble job, and I cannot imagine the boils that their hands must have gotten during the initial days of their work and how rough their hands must be after years of gripping the brooms, ensuring the roads are clean, day in and day out.

I remember my dad honking at cars in front of us when they would casually wind down their windows and throw their trash out of their cars. I felt that it was somewhat overly concerned of him, yet admired him for keeping to his beliefs even when he was behind the wheel.

If you would not like to keep it in the car, chances are it should not be lying on the roads as well, right? But many claim that it is ‘okay’ as the road-sweepers would ‘take care of it’.

Fast-forward a few years and I had moved to KL, I still felt uncomfortable just throwing my trash on the streets. Sure everyone was doing it, and they have hired cleaners to clear up the mess at the end of the evening. Nevertheless, the idea of just laying your trash just anywhere had me feeling uneasy. I could not help but wonder if this was another episode of my obsessive-compulsive nature or was it an instilled moral obligation to manage my trash.

Do you ever wonder what happens to your trash when it leaves your hand? A little girl that I bumped into a few days ago didn’t even seem to wonder even for a second what would happen to her candy-wrapper as she so gracefully laid it on the walkway outside a shop. Her parents just watched her without even mentioning anything about throwing that wrapper into a proper rubbish bin. Is this what our society has become? Do we constantly need another person to take care of our trash on our behalf?

 

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A street after a ‘pasar malam’ evening, prior to the contracted clean up.

 

It is very true that trash is really annoying to get rid of. If you are in a place where you cannot find a proper place to dispose of your waste, the first impulse is to just leave it wherever it is most convenient. On the other hand, if the entire Malaysian population has this kind of mentality, our country will literally be covered in trash. Despite the fact that there is hired help to clean up for us after a certain period of time (though not every street in Malaysia has hired cleaners, mind you), the short gap of time between the act of throwing and the act of cleaning will always remain.

For that period of time, our otherwise picturesque environment will be tainted with eyesores, possibly inviting ants, cockroaches, rats and other pests that we so detest as well.

A growing population without the proper ‘clean up’ mentality would result to a very dirty country. We sometimes pass judgmental comments on how other cities in other countries are filthy, and how their rivers and drains are extremely polluted.

Believe it or not, we are moving towards that unwanted destination, slowly but surely transforming our beloved land into an unnatural rubbish bin.

Biodegradable trash when not disposed at a proper location would still stink up the place and attract pests and rodents. The fact that packaging of most fast-moving consumer goods being plastic also does not jive with the mentality of leaving trash lying around.

 

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A beautiful beach near Kuching city. Alas, trash is always part of the otherwise perfect view.

 

Well, there is always a way to save our beloved lands from becoming a giant rubbish bin. These are a few easy steps that we can ALL practice:

1. Start them young! Change the youngsters’ mindsets and do not let the slogans of Dilarang Membuang Sampah (throwing trash is forbidden) or Jangan Membuang Sampah Di Merata-rata Tempat (do not litter) just be phrases that are not pondered upon.

Children in schools should be educated on waste-management that should also include educational mind maps that show what their little candy-wrappers would become if not properly disposed. This should continue throughout the educational levels to ensure that any alternative mindset is rebooted from the child or youth.

If you are a parent, your child’s education on waste-management is your responsibility. A parent that litters may produce litterers too.

2. Awareness is never too late. Netizens are mostly fans of witty videos especially if they are trendy enough to go viral. Although it may seem a petty theme for a video, the impact of a good video could provide that nagging afterthought should we still continue our bad habit of littering! The conscience is really something that needs prodding for a change towards a better and cleaner environment.

3. “There are no rubbish bins (lah)” should not be an excuse to litter! There is definitely a rubbish bin in your house or probably even 10 steps away. Laziness is NOT an excuse to litter (lah). If there are REALLY no rubbish bins in the places you go to, there is possibly a need to voice out this concern to an authority that can provide you with one.

 

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A bus terminal in one of the cities in Sarawak. Trash, trash everywhere.

 

4. Although you are responsible for the hygiene conditions in your home, the hygiene conditions of your workplace, school or places you visit should also be your concern! It is not enough to just keep your homes clean and leave trash everywhere else. Where you are is where home is for the period of time you are there.

5. Accumulated trash does stink. The humidity of our country stinks up almost any kind of trash, including old clothes, plastic trash and items we may think are dry and wouldn’t stink. If you are in charge of taking out the trash, please do so as regularly as you need to. If you are not, please make sure that someone else does so. Otherwise, you would be complacently having pests and rodents as new companions.

 

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A mountain of garbage as a backyard view in Payatas, Quezon City, Philippines

 

The single act of throwing trash inappropriately contributes to your beloved land being polluted. The millions that our country houses can easily destroy this land by one single act each.

I doubt anyone of us fancies living in a dumpster. Let’s make sure we never do!


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