Editorial Comment – Let’s renew the fight against litterbugs

Rubbish along Tikaram Park foreshore in Lami. Picture: PEKAI KOTOISUVA

So fines paid under the Litter Act are not enough to cover expenses incurred by municipal councils to clear rubbish left by individuals or companies that break the law.

That’s the grim view of Lautoka City Council senior health inspector Salen Singh. Mr Singh is on the record saying municipal councils were usually left to clean up waste and had to foot the bill for this.

The fine under the Litter Act, he pointed out, was less than the cost of cleaning up, and could become a costly affair.

“For example, when an individual doesn’t dispose their cigarette butts properly, that is a fine of $40 and when a company dumps their rubbish indiscriminately the fine is also $40.

“The amount of waste they discharge improperly is imposed with the same fine under the Act.”

And $40, he said, was not enough to cover the cost of sending staff and resources to collect the litter.

Municipal councils such as Lautoka and Nadi, he said, were affected by this.

“For instance for Nadi, when the individual or company pay a fine it will cost the council about $300 to cover the cost of clearing up that rubbish. So that $40 is not enough for them.”

So we go straight back to the root of the problem.

And that is the litterbug! Littering is a filthy habit! And we ask whether our laws are effectively fighting this? Or could it be that being effective comes down to how well those who are designated to do so are able to police them?

It is frustrating though that people continue to litter despite the availability of rubbish bins in many of our urban centres. Some people litter right beneath signboards that warn litterbugs would be dealt with.

The fact that we have a Litter Act should add impetus to the bid to improve cleanliness around the country.

Is it doing that? Plastic, empty water and soft drink bottles are bad for the environment.

People throw these indiscriminately when they have no use for them. Environmentalists believe littering is a nasty side effect of the “throw-away” or “convenience oriented” mentalities. In our urban centres, the burden of litter clean-up usually falls on municipal councils.

In December 2013, former president Ratu Epeli Nailatikau referred to littering as the culture of the throwaway package.

His statement was as apt then as it is now! He said it was one of the worst facets of Western consumerism that people of the Pacific have embraced. He suggested that while “we can blame the manufacturers for packaging their products in these containers in the first place”, the responsibility “for disposing of them properly is solely our own — all of us”.

If, as he highlighted then, conservation efforts within the region were to be substantial, it had to include a personal decision made by people of the Pacific to dispose of their garbage properly. Let’s face it then, change is inevitable. That change must start from within us, though.

And that means making the effort to dispose of all our rubbish properly.

We say this all the time.

We live in such a beautiful country.

We should make a commitment to keep Fiji clean and unite in the fight against litterbugs. They are lazy, inconsiderate, and do not care about their environment.

Like Mr Singh of Lautoka, we also look to the powers that be, to review how we fight litterbugs!

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