Why do we litter?
It seems, litterers are everywhere, and they don’t care that they are destroying your home.
After I wrote this piece on smoking and littering: “What were they thinking?“, I started reflecting on the behavior I had observed.
And, I wondered.
Why was it natural for someone to drop a cigarette out of car window onto the street?
Why does anyone place a finished cigarette in a flower pot instead of the convenient ashtray sitting next to that flowerpot?
The more time I spent thinking about these experiences, the more apparent it became that I was looking at this issue too narrowly.
I had focused on smokers and cigarette butts, even when I know that the irrational tendency to pollute is not a behavior that is exclusive to smokers.
Why do we litter?
Why does someone enjoying a barbecue outdoors, leave behind the scraps of their meals and the shreds of wrapping material, to litter the previously beautiful park?
Why do boaters, after they have finished refreshing themselves, crush the cans and drop it into the sparkling waters of the lake or river?
Walk around any major city, and you will find workers collecting the litter of humanity. Why?
Why do we need anyone to clean up litter?
No one, in their right mind, drops a cigarette butt on the floor of their living room.
Does anyone leave the remains of their meal on the floor of their dining room?
Nobody crushes a can and let it drop to the floor of their house or apartment, to lie there for someone else to clean. Why is it okay outdoors?
This street, village, state, country, is our home.
Why do we make a behavioral distinction between our private home and our public shared home?
Earth is our home. It is everyone’s home!
What should we do about litter?
The best example of what to do is given by the Japanese.
In 2018 Japan suffered a devastating loss against Belgium in the knock-out round of the World Cup, after leading early 2-0.
The team bowed respectfully to their opponents, and left the locker room spotless along with a thank you note to their Russian hosts.
Even more interestingly, the devastated Japanese fans didnt get angry, instead they cleaned pieces of litter left by others in the stadium. It was spotless when the Japanese fans left.
Wait. They what?
Yes, the Japanese are obsessed about quality, and they are equally obsessed about cleanliness.
The Japanese players and fans cleaned up their own, and others, trash. In so doing, they made the world a cleaner, better place.
And we should also!
Lets create a culture of keeping our home clean:
- Always pick up our own litter. Use garbage cans liberally
- Encourage others who you see littering to pick up litter
- Practice green living. Prefer reusables rather than disposables
- Clean up litter, even if its not yours. A little cleaning, by many, will make a big difference, eliminating tons of litter