CASES of littering and rubbish dumping, especially into drains and rivers, should be reported to the authorities by using today’s technology such as handphones.
WWF-Malaysia Executive Director and CEO Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma proposes that the reporting system on such cases be improved, with the usage of applications and other forms of technology, which enables online, rapid and real-time complaints to be filed.
“Budgets should be allocated to the relevant enforcement authorities to develop and implement the use of efficient technology and systems to improve enforcement efforts,” he says.
He also calls on the Government to review current fines and penalties provided by relevant laws and regulations to effectively deter littering and rubbish dumping.
While local governments have their own regulations on littering, indiscriminately throwing garbage in public is outlined as an offence under Section 47 of the Street, Drainage and Building Act 1974.
Under the Act, any person who deposits or throws rubbish in a public place can be fined a maximum of RM500.
If the person is convicted a second time or for subsequent offences, the maximum fine is doubled to RM1,000.
Dr Dionysius points out that the main contributing factor in the irresponsible dumping of rubbish is the poor civic-mindedness, attitude and culture among Malaysians.
He says the inadequate enforcement to curb such behaviour also contributes to the problem.
“Rubbish flushed down toilets find their way into septic tanks in residential areas which then become stuck and will not be able to function well.
“The maintenance and repair of septic tanks involve high costs. Often times, city municipalities will have to deal with taking up the costs for the repair work,” he adds.
Dr Dionysius also urges the Government to work and encourage businesses to become more efficient within their operations in using water resources and managing waste and effluents to prevent pollution.
“Several options could be explored to promote this such as by giving incentives for tax exemptions, rebates or schemes that award certification and labelling for industries that practise good waste management in their operations,” he suggests.
Malaysian Nature Society president Henry Goh concurs that the attitude of Malaysians is wanting when it comes to cleanliness and protecting their environment.
“Malaysians have some way to go with keeping open spaces as clean as they would their own home compound.
“Examples of this are the numerous beaches, trails, waterfalls and public parks where regular ‘gotong-royong’ clean-ups are carried out by non-governmental organisations (NGOs), resident associations and concerned individuals to remove unsightly rubbish left by park users and picnickers,” he says.
Goh laments that the public has yet to reach a level of civic-consciousness to dispose rubbish the proper way.
“Educating the public is key. Such cleanliness campaigns could start in schools where students are inculcated with good habits, which they will hopefully carry with them to adulthood,” he says.He adds that the Government could use multimedia platforms to impart the importance of proper rubbish disposal.
“NGOs could also play an important role in disseminating information and conducting public awareness campaigns.
“The public and private sectors should work closely together to bring about this important change in the public’s mindset. Imposing bigger fines is not a permanent solution,” Goh says.
Meanwhile, some agree that the ordinary man on the street in Malaysia still has far to go when it comes to being civic-minded.
A postgraduate student known only as May says Malaysians are generally “slightly below average” when it comes to their awareness about keeping public places clean.
Using public toilets as an example, the 28-year-old says used sanitary pads are sometimes left on top of the disposal bin instead of being thrown inside.
“When someone else sees such rubbish or used pads dumped in the open, they will just do the same without much thought.
“Perhaps such people think this way: ‘If others do it, I shall do it. If others don’t care, why should I care?’ ” May says.
She also shares that some workers at her previous place of employment were found by the facilities management to have dumped odd items into the office toilet.
“Weird stuff were thrown inside the toilet bowl including rings and condoms,” she says.
Josephine Li, a 31-year-old bank officer, concurs that most Malaysians are not civic-minded or educated enough to know what happens after they flush the toilet.
“They think it’s some magic gateway where you can throw anything in,” she says, adding that the oddest item she has seen thrown inside a public toilet is a pair of boxer shorts.
Li also laments that some Malaysians have the impression that it is someone’s else’s job to keep the surroundings and environment clean.
“I know some people who have no qualms about throwing trash like tissue pieces or paper in the drain and on the road when they get out of their car.
“But ironically, they complain when they see dirty streets and surroundings,” she says, adding that perhaps it is time for Malaysia to impose strict fines for littering like Singapore to get such Malaysians to kick the habit.