Feed the can, man

Updated: Oct 1, 2020

by Tauri Kerr

There is no denying that littering is one of my biggest pet peeves and I fail to understand how a large portion of the world’s population is seemingly unbothered by it.

Littering is the unlawful dumping of waste products (keyword here is unlawful). Ideally, people should be shaking in their boots if they were to accidentally drop a gum wrapper or cigarette butt, but the sad reality is that littering has become a part of our everyday lives. It saddens me that littering has been normalised and that many people do not even bat an eyelid when they see piles of rubbish.

On Sunday, a few weeks ago, my family and I decided to go for a hike at a nature reserve. The first 2km were breath-taking – spans of greenery and birds for as far as the eye could see but further into the hike, my heart shattered. The winding river, which we followed for the majority of the hike, was polluted beyond repair. Plastic bags, bottles, clothes, shoes, diapers, and polystyrene takeaway boxes were strewn on the riverbanks and flowing down the river itself. What broke my heart was that a lot of this litter was flowing down the river which means that the source of the littering is higher up. How sad is it to think that someone further down the river may need that clean water but it is so heavily polluted that it is unusable?

Photo by author

This is an area which is supposedly known for its natural and untouched beauty. Unfortunately, we have been unappreciative of this exquisite country that we live in. The amount of litter that is scattered around us is an inconceivable amount and I urge everyone to take note of this.

I know that many people drop their litter with a clear conscience but I am hoping that I can sway at least one person, with this article, to be mindful when they discard their rubbish.

When I visited Singapore in 2017, I noted that the streets were spotless – not even a piece of gum on the sidewalk. Upon further research, I discovered that you could face jail time for littering in Singapore! A first-time littering-offender is fined $300 for something as small as dropping a sweet wrapper on the floor. It is safe to say that Singaporeans are definitely shaking in their boots when they accidentally litter!

I cast my mind over to this beloved country, South Africa. If we do have laws against littering – why are they not enforced? The constitution clearly states that we have the right to an environment that is not harmful to our health and well-being. Surely littering is not contributing towards our well-being. I can certainly say that I have never met a South African who has been jailed for littering – have you?

Of course, I am not advocating for every second person to be arrested for dropping an item of waste, but I do feel that there should be an element of seriousness that is associated with littering.

Researching the causes of littering was eye-opening to say the least. People litter because they see that others have littered in that area before them – how is that a valid excuse? My personal favourite reason is ‘lack of trash receptacles’ – don’t you think it is sad that we are not willing to simply carry our rubbish until we find an acceptable dustbin? After reading further, I also discovered that a lot of people were not educated on the matter… today is a great day to learn something new! I encourage everyone to make a concerted effort to inform those around you about the importance of keeping our environment clean.

Luckily, it is not all bad news. You can make a difference!

Clean up initiatives are being established in the private sector left, right and centre. I asked around in my area and there is a group of people who gather every Saturday morning to clean up the Spruit and I have no doubt that there are similar initiatives all over the country. Put yourself out there and ask around. I had great fun researching the different initiatives that have been implemented and it has inspired me to be more proactive.

Be part of the solution, not the pollution.

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