Oman Observer

Litter not and let not others too!

Amid regulations, warnings and penalties, littering continues unabated in many parts of the capital city. Beaches, parks, parking spaces and sidewalks often become victims of food wrappers, soft drinks and water bottles, plastic bags, handbills, cigarette butts, tissues, papers and others.
Intentional or not, litter — large or small — can drastically affect the environment for years to come.
According to the civic law, littering can lead to a hefty RO 1,000 fine which will be doubled for repeat offences.
The decision, issued on March 16, 2017, came into effect on April 15 the same year.
But is the law being enforced? If yes, why are some corners of the city still under litterbugs?
According to civic officials, the authorities are keeping a close watch on all places in the city. “In most cases, offenders are warned and let off.
But throwing thrash from vehicles has almost come to a halt,” said an official at Muscat Municipality.
Although citizens and residents alike welcomed the law as a step to fight bad habits such as throwing trash on roads, authorities expected that people would take responsibility for the waste they generate.
“Regulations do bring in behavioural changes out of fear, but the important thing is raising awareness about the negative impact of bad habits on the environment,” said Syed al Harrasi, an environmental expert.
Littering is a menace witnessed in all urban areas.
People should be proud of the areas they live in.
“If an area has a litter problem, it is going to reduce or even destroy the pride that residents have about living there,” he told the Observer.
It is not just temptation or ignorance that leads to littering, but usually it results from a disrespect to the law, he said.
“Although the law enforcement authorities do their best to see that all people follow the regulations, many do it out of arrogance, thinking that somebody will clean the mess,” he said.
No doubt, increase in littering will lead to an increase in rodents, which create a health hazard, he added.
Litter also harms plants, vegetation and natural areas.
Litter has the potential to cause harm to human health, safety, welfare, as well as environment.
The harmful impact of litter includes trapping or poisoning animals, killing aquatic life directly through choking and indirectly through its impact on water quality.
Reports indicate around 1.9 billion tonnes of litter end up in the ocean every year, which shows people tend to throw things randomly anywhere rather than in garbage bins.
Litter is not just a problem related to aesthetics.
It has serious environmental consequences that can persist for decades.
Studies have proved that a styrofoam container takes up to a million years to decompose and break down.
A disposable diaper can take more than 500 years and cigarette more than 10 years.
Even orange or banana skins stick around for more than a month.
In a report in EcoMena, an initiative to create mass environmental awareness and foster sustainability worldwide, MENA (Middle East and North Africa) in particular, litter is a problem that can be controlled.
“The temptation to litter is usually motivated by disrespect to law and its enforcement as well as ignorance and arrogance in our attitude, thinking that somebody will clean our mess,” the report pointed out.
A significant amount of money is spent to collect and clean up the litter that many people have thoughtlessly tossed out on the streets and other public spaces.
People who are aware of dangers of litter often make more of an effort to always dump trash in bins.
They also spread the word to others they see littering and teach them to dispose of garbage the right way.
“Almost all of us litter in one way or the other. Littering is something we learn from others and unconsciously pass on to our children,” adds the report.