Let me give you a scenario: as you exhaustively wait in traffic on your way home from work, you see the person in front of you casually enjoying the slow drive, with their hand out their window. You’re eating a hamburger you got from a McDonald’s Drive Thru’ because you didn’t have lunch today.
As you finish your burger, you look around for a place to put the wrapper but then you think “if I put it here, I might forget about it and it would stink up the car.”
So, what do you do?
You wait a minute and think this wrapper isn’t really plastic, right? If it’s biodegradable and I throw it, it’s going to decompose anyway, isn’t it? As you’re thinking, the car in front of you proceeds to throw their own food wrapper out the window. And hey, if they’re doing it, then I’m okay to do it too, right?
Cakap Tak Serupa Bikin
Malaysians all love to jaga tepi kain orang lain but what about kain sendiri? How aware are you of your own actions when it comes to taking care of the environment? Or simply to not litter?
Just last year, it was reported that Malaysians generate an immense amount of MSW (municipal solid waste), around 33,000 t/d, which is equivalent to 1.17 kg/person per day. That’s only the ones that actually make it to the landfills. What about the ones leftover on the streets? Or at the side of the road? In the woods, even?
According to Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin, about 60% of the 32 million Malaysian population still fail to throw their garbage into trash bins although the facilities have been adequately provided for them.
Does that sound familiar to you? Think about this carefully, please. What about all those masks lying around the parking lot of your office? Or the ones that you took off while eating and forgot about?
As of 30 September 2021, 3,576 tonnes of COVID-19-related waste have been produced nationwide. We’re not just talking about recycling waste products here anymore. We’re talking about your uncanny ability to throw rubbish out your window and expect other people to pick them up for you.
Last week, as I was returning home from work, stuck in a jam again as you do, I saw people walking towards the train station nearby. One of them casually threw a straw wrapper over their shoulder as they ascended up the stairs of the LRT station.
First of all, what gives you the right?
Second of all, hello?! You can’t wait a few more minutes ‘til you get home to throw it in your trash can? Or better yet, don’t they have a trash can at the train station too?
Another thing that’s worrisome is when people casually leave their trash where they sit. I witnessed this one lady sipping her drink and then leaving the half-empty container on the side of the bench at a park and going on her merry way. I
’m not saying I’m perfect, but I at least don’t leave my garbage out in the open.
Kat rumah you tak ada tong sampah ke? Tak pernah nampak tong sampah before ke?
Enough Is Enough
Unfortunately, this doesn’t just happen on the streets where people can openly see it. It happens everywhere.
There’s occurrences when you go on a picnic by the beach or go hiking and you see people bury their baby’s pampers in the sand.
Did you think no one would notice? You know that diapers take over 500 years to decompose, right? And they smell. Why would you subject other people to your baby’s disgusting leftovers?
Sure, you might think, oh we have DBKL, they’ll pick up after us. Yes okay, but you’d want to wait for trash to pile up on the excuse of it being “not your job to pick up after them”? If you see trash that’s in your way, pick it up and put it in the bin. It’s not going to put a dent in your day, let me tell you.
If you’re worried about it being gross, carry a glove around with you. In this pandemic, you should have gloves on you regardless.
Recycling is also a thing you’d want to start actively doing. Malaysia has started to mandate recycling since 2015, but as we all know, Malaysia’s more like a “take what resonates with you” kind of country. So, recycling may become more of an annoyance than an actual obligation.
How many air ikat tepi’s have you seen hanging from trees all around your town? I count mine every time I go to work. Today, it’s four. And it takes me around 40 minutes from my house to my office. So you can guess how many I might have missed when I wasn’t stuck at a traffic light or traffic jam.
We should also talk about a point when the trash that you throw out your windows (houses, cars or otherwise) could potentially be life threatening.
Have you seen the accidents that happen when people throw their trash overhead instead of inside the designated garbage bins? Like people who live in condos, flats or apartments that throw their garbage from the 10th floor, unmindful of people who are below.
There was one occurrence back in 2018 when a boy lost his life after one of the residents of his apartment threw a used office chair from his house above and it hit the boy below.
Another occurrence that happened was back in 2016, when a 12-year-old boy sustained serious head injuries after he was hit by a metal rod thrown from the upper floors of his apartment complex.
Help Out A Bit, Why Don’t You?
We understand that not all Malaysians are like this. And that it takes a lot of practice and patience to teach the ones that are to leave their litterbug lifestyle behind. But of course, any change, even a little, is good change.
Here are some things you can do to be more environmentally conscious. Even a teeny, tiny bit.
1. If You See Trash, Throw It Away.
Or at least try to minimise it if you think it’s too much to handle on your own. This includes when you go out hiking or exercising. Bring along a bag along with you, you’re bound to see trash on the pathway of fresh air. If there’s people, there’s always trash.
2. Keep Trash Cans In Your Car.
That way, even if you decide to dine inside your car, you’ll have somewhere to store your garbage in and won’t have to resort to throwing it out the window. If you’re worried about your car smelling of garbage juice, you could always roll down your windows. It saves gas and saves the environment. What do you know, two in one. And at the end of the day, when you reach home, you can unload the trash in your garbage bin at home.
3. Similar To The Above, Try Keeping Your Trash In Your Pockets .
You can throw it at home or when you see a trash can nearby. It’s not going to hurt you to hold on to some trash. There’s always a bin within your radius. And don’t be using the excuse of “it’s biodegradable, so it doesn’t matter where I throw it” when you throw tissues on the ground. Biodegradable is one thing, but an eyesore is another.
While we’ve mentioned this, try minimising plastic usage. Realistically, it’s going to be difficult but with practice, you’ll get the hang of it.
4. If You See People Throwing Trash Where They Don’t Belong, Call Them Out Or Report Them To DBKL.
Don’t be afraid to call out whoever you see that’s been throwing their trash around willy nilly. It’s part of your duty as a civic minded human being to take care of the environment. Your whole life you’ve been minding other people’s business, why not in this sense as well?
5. Arrange For A Gotong-Royong.
Haven’t heard that phrase since primary school, have you? A good way to help out with minimising trash around your neighbourhood, for a start, is to get together and hold a good old-fashioned community spring cleaning. Putting in SOPs and asking your entire community to help out not only helps the environment, but also helps to build character.
It gets easier the more you practice doing it. Try training yourself to keep your trash to a minimum and be more aware when it comes to seeing garbage littered around you. After all, you’ll have to live on this Earth for years to come. You don’t want it looking like a landfill, do you?
If you’re interested in learning more about what you can do for the environment and being more active in helping it, you might want to unlearn what you know about sustainable living by giving this a read: