WHEN it comes to handling litterbugs, most Ipoh folk believe that shame is the most effective punishment.
Those interviewed by MetroPerak are saying that a monetary fine for litterbugs is meaningless these days, and it is time to incorporate community service as a form of punishment to deter them from repeating their irresponsible acts.
Retired teacher G. Mogan, 60, said he encourages the Ipoh City Council to place an emphasis on community service as punishment.
“I think a fine will not be enough to make them realise that they should not litter.
“Make them pick up the trash and clean up areas in the city so that they will understand better about the importance of keeping the environment clean,” he told MetroPerak.
Mogan said while most foreigners come to Malaysia to enjoy the rich beauty of Mother Nature that is not naturally available in their country, it is sad to see Malaysians themselves destroying the environment.
“It is clear that litterbugs do not appreciate the beautiful environment that we have here in the country, so hopefully, having community service imposed on them will make them change their mentality and behaviour,” he said.
Similarly, businesswoman Witzi Leong, 56, said she thinks community service is a better way to punish litterbugs compared to fines.
“Nowadays, there are people with plenty of money to spend.
“Even if they do not have enough, they could just easily get the money to settle the fine from their parents.
“Making those responsible for illegal dumpsites feel the shame of having to do community service is a better way because I think shame is more effective in deterring them from repeating their immoral behaviour again,” she said.
Leong said the same punishment should also be extended to those who spit, as well as pet owners who do not clean up after their pets defecate in public places.
“It is frustrating to see people like this. I try to take photos of people like this and shame them on my social media.
“I might not be able to catch them in the act, but I could still take photos of the rubbish they left behind along with their cars’ number plates,” she said.
“But ultimately, I think it is more important to educate the public, especially parents first, on how to keep our environment clean,” Leong added.
Homemaker Ho Mee Choo, 51, shares the same sentiments as Leong and Mogan.
“Community service is the appropriate form of punishment.
“I have seen these people with my own eyes, dumping rubbish in places they are not supposed to.
“So I think community service should go along with the monetary fine,” she said.
Ho also said the City Council should step up their efforts in clearing the refuse as well, as the rubbish collectors do not come on a regular schedule to pick up trash in her neighbourhood.
“From three times a week, sometimes it’s two times, or once, or not at all. When I asked them why, they told me they did not have the money to pay for fuel. As they say, the fish rots from the head.
“If those in authority in society do not set a proper example, how do they expect people below their ranks to follow?” she said.
Area supervisor Jason Neoh, 27, said monetary fines are meaningless these days.
“People just pay, or choose not to pay, and then that’s it.
“But with community service, they are doing something more meaningful by helping clean up an area and at the same time preventing the spread of animals that carry disease like rats and Aedes mosquitoes,” he said.
Neoh said it still shocks him how Malaysians are still so far behind in terms of having a developed mindset.
“Some of them just do not care for the environment, leaving behind rubbish, clogged drains. They act like the city is not their home.
“I hope that community service will be introduced as punishment so that people know how serious their irresponsible behaviour is,” he said.
Engineer Iftikhar Gohar, 57, also said the City Council should consider introducing and publicising community service as a punishment for litterbugs.
“I know littering is a habit that’s hard to break, but if enough emphasis is placed on it, hopefully it would make people think twice about doing it,” he said, adding that he thinks litterbugs should also be slapped with a fine at the same time.
Iftikhar, who is a United States citizen currently on a vacation in Ipoh, said back in his home country, the fine for littering was US$1,000 (RM4,300).
“It is a lot of money, so if the fine is high enough, I think that is when people start to worry.
“But at the same time, pressure from society plays an important role too in curbing the problem of littering.
“If they know that people around them do not like it, and keeping clean is part of the culture, perhaps it will stop being a major problem anymore,” he said.
Pasir Pinji Assemblyman Howard Lee said introducing community service as punishment, or recompensation, as he calls it, is a reasonable policy provided that the proper mechanisms are in place.
“But, much thought still needs to be put into seeking the root cause of littering.
“Enforcement, punishment – I prefer to use the word recompensation – and prevention are all key to solving the problem,” he said.
Lee said enforcement should be a government-led effort assisted by civil society.
“Recompensation is a policy and mindset problem.
“It should not be seen as a way for the authorities to generate revenue, but as a measure to mop up the mess that those responsible have caused, and that can be in the form of fines as well as community service.
“And prevention is a matter of civic mindfulness and incentivising separation and recycling, while also punishing illegal waste dumping and littering,” he said.