Sea turtle trapped by litter. PHOTO: PIXABAY
Litter do not just appear. They are the result of careless attitudes and thoughtless actions. More often than not, people litter because they are doing only what is convenient for themselves without regard for others and the environment. Some might think a piece of litter is harmless and “it is not a big deal”. That is because they do not see the broader negative consequences that littering has on human health and safety, the wildlife and our environment.
Food litter attracts and creates breading grounds for pests. Pests such as rodents and cockroaches carry harmful bacteria and germs that transmit diseases and make people ill. Litter can also clog drains and collect water, thus creating breeding grounds for mosquitoes and promoting the spread of dengue.
Litter can be life threatening. When objects thrown from high-rise buildings come crashing down at tremendous speed, they hit with a force that can kill. Last year, an elderly man was killed by a wine bottle thrown from the balcony of a condominium unit. Litter also kills over 100 million marine animals each year, through choking and polluting water quality. Litter traps and injures animals too.
Cigarette butts, the most common type of litter in Singapore, are extremely toxic as they leach harmful chemicals into the ground and then into the food chain. Furthermore, the Ministry of Home Affairs reported that between 2014 and 2018, the Singapore Civil Defence Force attended to about 550 vegetation fires on average annually and cigarette butts caused many of these fires.
Every litter bit hurts human health and safety, the wildlife and our environment. We can solve the problem of littering through education and social norming. People who are aware of the harmful effects of litter will not only make an effort to bin their trash, but should also spread the word to others. We should exercise our right to express displeasure when seeing people litter and inform them to bin their trash.