RT Cunningham


Litter in the Philippines is like it used to be in the United States

litter Litter is a big problem in many countries, not just the Philippines. It just seems more pervasive in the Philippines to me because I get to see it more.

The United States was just like that in 1960s and early 1970s. I used to see empty beer bottles and cans, along with soda bottles, along the roads I traveled on by bike. The key phrase here 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 is 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 than have “educated” the general 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 where very few people seem to go or in areas where no one seems to go. There will always be trash around waste cans because people can’t seem to aim.

Litter in the Philippines

An article by Jay Stainback at Live in the Philippines seems to indicate that littering in the Philippines is a cultural thing. It isn’t. Parents need to be taught to dispose of garbage properly and then teach it their children. Or maybe the other way around.

I’ve watched people sitting in front of the creek by my house in Olongapo. I’ve seen them toss garbage into the creek without a second thought about it. I paid people to clean up that part of the creek before rainy season started a few times. It would end up in the ocean eventually otherwise.

I saw children and adults alike in the street throw junk food wrappers right where they were quite a few times over the years. Asking them why wouldn’t serve any purpose. Trash on the ground doesn’t have the same negative stigma there 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 trash where it shouldn’t be thrown.

There isn’t any incentive to stop littering in the Philippines. That is, other than someone not wanting to see it.

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By RT Cunningham
August 21, 2018