Litter in the Philippines

litterLitter is a big problem in many countries, not just the Philippines. It just seems more pervasive to me in the Philippines because I get to see it more. The United States was like that in the 1960s and early 1970s. I used to see empty beer bottles and cans, along with the bottles for soft drinks, along the roads I traveled on while biking. The key phrase is “used to see”.

Litter in the United States

The amount of roadside litter today, as well as litter in most public areas, pales in comparison to how it used to be. A lot of nonprofit environment campaigns started in the 1970s. The one I remember the most was the public service announcement sponsored by the Keep America Beautiful organization in 1971. It featured the “Crying Indian”. [Due to political correctness, American Indians are now called Native Americans.]

Litter law enforcement efforts and public awareness campaigns since then have “educated” the public about the effects of pollution. Discarded aluminum cans and glass bottles were artificially inflated in value as an incentive to recycle them.

You can still see trash lying around in various places, but it’s usually in areas where very few people seem to go or in areas where no one at all seems to go. There will always be trash around waste receptacles because people can’t seem to aim.

Litter in the Philippines

There are people who suggest that littering in the Philippines is a cultural thing. It really isn’t. If it is, then it’s a cultural thing in a lot of countries. Parents need to be taught to dispose of garbage properly and then teach it to their children. Or maybe the other way around.

I’ve watched people sit in front of the creek by my house in Olongapo City and toss garbage into the creek without a second thought about it. I’ve paid people every year to clean up that part of the creek before rainy season started. It would have ended up in the ocean eventually if I ignored it along with everyone else.

I’ve seen children and adults alike in the street throw food wrappers right where they were standing quite a few times over the years. Asking them why they did that wouldn’t serve any purpose. Trash on the ground doesn’t have the same negative stigma in the Philippines as it does elsewhere.

I bought a large garbage bin for my compound in 2015. After I saw a couple of nieces throwing trash less than 10 feet away from it, I made them pick it up and put it in the bin. I told their parents to teach their children, and I don’t like repeating myself. They still throw their trash where it shouldn’t be thrown to this day.

Cleaning up the Mess

There isn’t any incentive to stop littering in the Philippines. That is, other than someone not wanting to see it. Attitudes need to change, and I have no idea how to change them. How can I convince people that litter is a health issue?

Our barangay government now employs groups of senior citizens to clean up the streets within the barangay areas. Each person wears an official T-shirt and carries their own broom, furnished by the barangay. As you might expect, even the government knows that litter is a problem.

Image by Sergei Tokmakov, Esq. https://Terms.Law from Pixabay

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