Littering occurs when people throw objects (often man-made) onto the ground and leave them, as opposed to disposing of them properly in bins or other designated areas. Litter can refer to anything from a small packet of potato crisps or a sweet wrapper to large bags of rubbish or even an area with large quantities of rubbish.
Often people do not consider small items such as gum or even cigarette butts to be litter, but these small pieces of rubbish account for a large percent of litter that is found on our streets. Litter consists of waste products such as containers, papers and wrappers which have been disposed of without consent.
Littering is one of the most problematic environmental issues in Zimbabwe. It is amazing that 94 percent of people identify litter as a major environmental problem and yet people still litter.
Carelessly discarded garbage affects every member of society. It causes harm to people and animals, it damages our waterways, cost us money and suggests that we do not care for our environment. We live in a plastic convenience culture where virtually every human being uses plastic materials directly and indirectly every single day.
Every year we eat and drink from some 34 billion newly manufactured bottles and containers worldwide. We patronise fast food restaurants and buy products that consume another seven billion kilogrammes of plastic.
Causes of littering
There are 10 primary sources of litter:
- Pedestrians dropping garbage in the street or gutters.
- Motorists discarding garbage out of windows.
- Uncovered loads. Items that are not secured can easily be blown out of trailers and cause roadside littering.
- 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 refuse collection containers such as bins.
- Commercial refuse and disposal. Poorly secured commercial refuse can easily become litter.
- Construction projects. Litter can come from uncontrolled building waste and workers’ lunchtime refuse.
- People at leisure.
- Entertainment events. Events create a large amount of litter, which can overflow onto neighbouring areas when measures to control it are not carefully planned.
- Illegal dumping.
- Intentional or habitual littering, for reasons such as laziness or acts of rebellion.
What are the effects of littering?
Litter can cause a whole range of problems for everyone in the community. Litter discarded in streets and parks can travel through the stormwater system to our bays and rivers, where it can cause harm to wildlife and aquatic life.
(1) Litter costs money. Removing litter from the environment costs everyone money as it means high council rates in order to employ more workers to clean up the streets.
(2) It is a threat to public health. Litter attracts vermin and is a breeding ground for bacteria. Items such as broken glass and syringes can be a health hazard in public places.
(3) Litter can be a fire hazard. Accumulated litter and carelessly discarded cigarette butts are potential fire hazards.
(4) It looks bad. Litter negatively affects the image of places, especially tourist locations.
(5) Litter attracts more litter. It sends out a message that people do not care for the environment and that it is acceptable to litter.
(6) It can harm or kill wildlife. Plastic litter can choke or suffocate birds and marine life or even cattle.
(7) Litter harms our waterways. Organic matter, such as dog poo, leaves and grass clippings, pollutes our waterways.
What does the law say about littering?
The Environmental Management Agency’s mandate is 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.
EMA has a statute that regulates litter. It is clearly stated in Section 83 of the Environmental Management Act (Chapter 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. Public transporters must put in place sufficient waste bins within their vehicles for use by the passengers as stipulated in Section 23 subsection (2) and (3) of Statutory Instrument 6 of 2007.
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 on the streets, public places or on public transport 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.
What is the solution?
Every person or authority in control or responsible for the maintenance of any place must at all times ensure that places are provided with containers which should normally be adequate and suitable for the discarding of litter.
- Public transporters or any owner of a public conveyance must ensure that no litter is thrown from the transport conveyance.
- Thoughtless drivers and their passengers are costing the taxpayer millions each year in clean-up costs when they toss litter from their cars.
- Individuals are not allowed to discard dump or leave any litter on any land, street or road except in a container provided for that purpose.
- Waste bins must be emptied at places which have been especially designated, indicated, provided or set for such purpose.
Urban or rural council authorities are urged to work with NGOs, international agencies, the corporate world and other institutions so that they will be able to effectively provide adequate facilities for waste management, provide waste bins at strategic intervals and convenient places for litter disposal and design adequate routine waste collection mechanisms.
This together with public awareness raising campaigns will go a long way in ensuring a litter-free and disease-free environment.
As we approach the rainy season please ensure your community is kept clean!
Please talk to us. We are always ready to listen. Email: [email protected] or 04 305543 / Tollfree 08080028