Come down hard on litterbugs

Monday, May 20, 2019

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In Mandeville, a clearly annoyed Mr Floyd Green, Member of Parliament for St Elizabeth South Western and a junior minister, called for those seen carelessly disposing of garbage to be publicly identified and shamed.

In Montego Bay, an equally disturbed Mr Homer Davis, mayor of that western, tourism-oriented city, told business leaders that some restaurant operators and food vendors are contributing to a rat infestation there by improperly disposing of leftovers.

Mr Davis tells us that in some cases vendors selling food on the streets are lifting manhole covers and dumping their waste.

And here we are talking about Montego Bay, among the world's celebrated tourist resort cities.

None of this will come as a major shock to Jamaicans who have become accustomed, perhaps inured, to seeing people dumping garbage any and everywhere.

Food boxes, drink boxes, paper bags, plastic bags, and plastic bottles come flying through the windows of moving vehicles as a matter of course.

There are business operators who dump garbage in any available space whenever they believe no one is watching.

Gullies, water ways, and open lots became clogged with solid waste.

Curiously some of those who dump indiscriminately are among the first to complain of inaction by the authorities when gullies and water ways are blocked leading to flooding; or of disease-carrying mosquito infestation spawned in pools of stagnant water, because the water way is blocked.

The clear impression is that some people are unable to connect the dots. Obviously, many people simply do not care.

Many Jamaicans have had the unpleasant experience of being quizzed by visitors about this tendency by some to casually dirty up this country.

Intriguingly, most people actually take pride in keeping their homes and yards clean. It's a different matter altogether when they exit their gates.

The problem extends even to those who collect waste. It's commonplace to see garbage collection crews strewing garbage all about as they lift receptacles, then drive away without a backward glance.

It's clear that nothing short of a culture change is required.

In that respect, the pronouncements by Messrs Green and Davis are appropriate and timely, we think. Opinion leaders need to speak out far more about these issues.

Mr Green points to the value of rapidly evolving communication technologies in what he says should be the naming and shaming of offenders.

“I would love to see on social media, pictures of those cars out of which the box lunch is coming, the box juice is coming; we should start posting and sharing those,” said Mr Green.

That would be good. But we believe what would be even better is if the authorities — not least the police — start implementing the anti-litter law to the letter whenever breaches are observed.

In some cases, the penalties may not be as severe as they should be. But even as action is taken to strengthen those aspects, we feel bringing litter bugs before the courts will help towards the desired culture change.

Also, there should be no let-up in the educational drive — in school, in church, in political fora, everywhere — to get people to understand that they should stop “dutty up Jamaica”.


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