Editorial comment – Let’s target litterbugs

Minister for Waterways and Environment, Dr Mahendra Reddy with Ministry permanent secretary Joshua Wycliffe and participants attending the Litter Act 2008 Litter Prevention Officers (LPO) Enforcement Training. Picture: SUPPLIED

ANY campaign or policy that targets littering should be encouraged. Environment Minister Dr Mahendra Reddy said the “Clean Environment Policy” of his ministry aimed to make Fiji cleaner for citizens and visitors.

It hopes to do this through self-compliance and enforcement of the Litter Act 2008.

Dr Reddy spoke during the Litter Prevention Officer (LPO) training at the Novotel Suva Lami Bay convention centre on Monday. The policy, he said, was launched in January this year and provided guidance to secure a cleaner Fiji for all Fijians. One of the answers to the littering problem, he said, was having a co-ordinated effort among all relevant stakeholders.

The Litter Act 2008, he said, prescribed penalties for various offences, including littering from a vehicle, failing to safeguard traffic and remove litter and abandoning dangerous litter.

The Act, he said, was administered by the Department of Environment but could be enforced by a number of authorised litter prevention officers.

They include police officers, land transport officers, public health officers and other public officers.

Without a doubt, littering is a rather touchy issue. It seems that way from the outset.

This is a filthy habit.

Are our laws effective though? 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 many 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.

Plastic, empty water and soft drink bottles are bad for the environment. People tend to 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 and now Speaker of the House Ratu Epeli Nailatikau referred to littering as the culture of the throwaway package.

It was an apt reference.

He said it was one of the worst facets of Western consumerism that people of the Pacific had embraced.

He said 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”.

This should be something that comes from within us.

As Ratu Epeli rightly pointed out, if 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.

Change is inevitable. However, change sometimes isn’t easy to accept. But change will be good for our environment.

We can start being part of this change by taking the initiative to stop littering.

We live in such a beautiful country.

We should make a commitment to keep Fiji clean and unite in the fight against litterbugs.

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