Littering is a way of life, it seems
Kaieteur News
February 26, 2007

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Mashramani has come and gone, leaving behind a sea of litter that would do any garbage collector proud. There is still a mass of Styrofoam boxes and plastic bottles floating in the canals in the city.

On the streets, the workers from the City Council have done a great job removing litter that should not have been there in the first place. There were pieces of clothing, empty food containers and of course, those disposable things that people take with them on outings and picnics.

Things such as plastic containers, forks and spoons, tissue paper, cardboard boxes and cups and even the odd shoes and slippers were left behind to line the roadway and Merriman Mall.

Most of these have been removed and it is only a question of where they will be disposed. The Mandela Avenue landfill site was said to be closed but in the absence of any other, one would expect the garbage to be dumped there by the many trucks and carts.

The Botanical Gardens did not escape the attention of those bent on littering. Many families were there on what has become a regular feature—that relaxing day out of the home to allow the children to run.

Those who have travelled overseas would quickly realise that regardless of the size of the parade and the crowds, there are no more than a few bottles left there by the over exuberant beer drinker and the few who would walk with water during the summer months.

The Brooklyn Parade, known as the Labour Day parade, is one of the largest in the world. It attracts millions from all over the world; such is its reputation as one of the greatest spectacles in the world. There are the floats and the trucks with the large music sets. As is the case in Guyana, the route in unchanged and has been so for more than 30 years.

The participants line up along Eastern Parkway and on those streets leading to the Parkway. The crowds are extremely large and most of the spectators are of West Indian ancestry. They would have come from cultures such as ours where people discard waste any which way and without regard for the aesthetics.

But at the end of the parade, the volume of litter is so much less than the few hundred Guyanese who line the Mash Float Parade route would accumulate. Those who go out to camp picnic-style would take with them their garbage disposal bags and when these are filled they would seek out the nearest garbage bin to deposit their waste.

This did not come about because the people are better trained than us Guyanese. In the first instance, the laws governing littering are harsh. The fines could be as much as the equivalent of four day's pay in this country. Secondly, repeat offenders could be incarcerated or made to perform community service in full view of all who pass by.

To the average man, every cent is important. Unlike here where people could ask for a ‘raise' from a friend, in those countries the friend also needs the raise. Given this scenario, people would think twice to litter because the fine that they would be required to pay could go toward satisfying a bill or some outstanding expense.

Therefore, the people are forced to develop meaningful habits, hence the garbage disposal bag. In addition, peer pressure plays a significant role. People often frown on the litter-bugs and would not hesitate to inform the police.

So here we are talking about being ready to welcome visitors and about having a clean city when we still have people who should support our clean environment drive. Needless to say, there were people who did walk with their garbage disposal bags and entities in the city did provide the bins necessary for holding garbage, but this was overshadowed by the average Guyanese who could not careless about the mess left behind.

We have heard people say that if they do not litter then the municipal workers would not have jobs. They fail to realise that the money paid to the municipal workers to pick up garbage could do many other things needed to make life better in this city.

We have been talking about an education programme but with the main event, Cricket World Cup, less than a fortnight away, any programme would be a waste of time.

We shudder to think about the reaction of those who came from a country where littering is a serious crime. Indeed we still have a long way to go.