Littering the environment has a negative impact on our planet and damages areas where we live, work, and play.
Littering refers to the throwing of objects (often man-made) onto the ground and not picking them up or disposing of them properly.
Litter refers to anything from a small crisp packet or sweet wrapper, scratched juice cards to large bags of rubbish or even an area with many items of rubbish.
Top 10 causes of littering
1) Pedestrians dropping garbage such as scratched juice cards and fast food packaging in the street.
2) Motorists discarding garbage out of windows.
3) Uncovered loads. Items that are not secure can easily be blown out of trailers and cause roadside littering.
4) Household refuse disposal and collection. Animal scavengers and the wind can dislodge unsecured items placed out on the corner for collections. Litter can also result from overloading bins.
5) Commercial refuse and disposal. Poorly secured commercial refuse can easily become litter.
6) Construction projects. Litter can come from uncontrolled building waste and workers’ lunchtime refuse.
7) People at leisure.
8) Entertainment events. Events create a large amount of litter, which can overflow onto neighbouring areas when measures to control it are not carefully planned.
9) Illegal dumping.
10) Intentional or habitual littering, for reasons such as laziness or acts of rebellion.
Why the concern about litter?
- It’s unsightly and reduces the aesthetic appeal of public places including streets, parks and waterways.
- It costs the community huge sums of money and time to clean up every year.
- It causes blockages of the drainage system and causes flooding which can cost councils millions of rand to repair. This is money that can be better spent on other developmental projects.
- When it gets into our waterways — rivers, dams and the sea — it can kill aquatic life directly (e.g. through choking) and indirectly through its impacts on water quality and decreases oxygen levels when it decays in water.
- It kills rivers which are the lifeblood of the environment. They provide homes for wildlife and plants, water supplies for homes, industries and farms, and places of recreation and enjoyment for us all.
Since water is such a precious resource, and we have a limited supply, we need to preserve and cherish our rivers and waterways;
- It can be dangerous to people particularly when it involves items such as broken glass, rust, needles and syringes.
- It can be a fire hazard, for example when lit cigarettes are thrown out.
- It harms birds, for example they may choke on plastic, chewing gum or any other litter that gets stuck in their throats.
- It breeds rats which carry diseases, destroy and eat crops and food, chew electrical and telephone cables.
What Does the Law Say on Littering?
It is the Environmental Management Agency’s statutory obligation and mandate to ensure that every citizen has a right to a clean and safe environment, which is not harmful to health.
To this effect EMA encourages all local authorities to adopt effective waste management practices including attending to littering issues.
It is clearly stated in Section 83 of the Environmental Management Act (Cap 20:27) that it is an offence to discard, dump or leave any litter on any land, street or road except in a container provided for such purposes or at a place which has specifically been designated for such purpose.
It also makes it an offence to throw litter from a moving vehicle. Such offences attract a US$20 fine or three months imprisonment or both such fine and imprisonment.
Public/passenger vehicles, i.e. buses and kombis must have bins in place in terms of Section 23 subsection (2) and (3) of Statutory Instrument 6 of 2007 (Effluent and Solid Waste Disposal Regulations).
Failure to do so attracts a fine of US$20. Section 83 of the Environmental Management Act and Section 23 of S.I. 6 of 2007 seek to prevent the nuisances associated with the distribution or casting of flyers, pamphlets, advertisements or waste paper upon undesignated places.
It is also an offence for recipients of such materials to throw litter on the street or road. Section 23 subsection (3) of Statutory Instrument 6 of 2007 authorises the imposition penalties and fines against offenders who dump litter in violation of its provisions and the fine goes up to level 14 which is US$5 000.
What Role Can You Play in Preventing Litter?
Buy containers that are returnable such as glass and bottles or items that use little or no packaging.
Select packaging that is biodegradable if possible. Try and purchase items that come in or are made from recycled containers.
Place ample trash containers in conspicuous places for glass, paper and plastic.
Always carry a litterbag in your vehicle. When you see litter, pick it and throw it in a bin
Educate others on why not to litter. If you see someone littering, tell them to put litter in the bin.
Discuss with your families why one shouldn’t litter. Take pride of yourself and take pride of your environment. Put your litter in a bin and keep Zimbabwe clean.
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