Today’s Page 11 article by Kishani Samaraweera discusses an issue we all face and sometimes even contribute to. After a gathering, whether it’s political, religious or social, what would be left behind is a venue covered in litter. If you follow Notes for a Rebel, you may remember an article published a few weeks ago about a similar topic.

Dispose of litter responsibly. Sounds simple and easy. How hard is it to find a garbage bin? And yet, people continue to litter. Walking on pavements is like walking on a minefield. Added to the bird droppings, there are cigarette butts, food wrappers, food and the worst, spit. People spit on roads and pavements like they own the road. They spit with no consideration whatsoever about other people.

Many people attribute such behavior to one’s upbringing. When you see a man spitting or throwing garbage on the road, you probably think, ‘imagine what kind of a family he comes from.’ But it’s not only one’s social class that can be blamed. If you go to a private school in Colombo Seven, you are bound to find dirty toilets. After the interval, you’ll see wrappers, empty packets, bags and tissues on the ground.

Let’s say these kids are still learning, what about adults? At an office where the ladies bathroom is used by less than ten females, there is a pressing need for awareness about how to trash cans.

The ladies seem to need a lesson on how the tissue goes in the trash can and not on its lid. Where the tissue goes seems like such an obvious thing and yet, the women insist on piling the tissue on the lid of the trash can.

Why do we litter? Is it because we know there are people who will clean up after us? Do we throw trash on the pavement because the cleaners will take care of it? Do we treat the floor at office as a garbage dump because the office has employed a cleaning staff and we think it’s their job and not ours to keep the place clean?
You are not doing the world a favor by not littering. You are not going out of your way to keep this world clean.

You are merely doing what is expected of you. Garbage bins, dust bins, trash cans or whatever it is you call them, weren’t invented as a decoration. It is meant to be used to collect trash and then disposed of properly.

It’s such a simple system that it’s surprising that there are people who still don’t follow it. The next time you decide to forget this system and attempt to throw something on the ground, ask yourself why you can’t throw that piece of paper, bus ticket or leftover food into a trash can instead of the ground. The next time you try to throw away the used matchstick or cigarette butt on the ground, ask yourself why you can’t just throw it into a trash can.

Give it a try. It’s not too hard.