Mar 29, 2011

Litter Begets Litter

“We must dare to think about unthinkable things
because when things become unthinkable,
thinking stops and action becomes mindless.”
--J. William Fulbright

Littering is universal  phenomenon (we have had enough of those bashing Indians' littering habits).The US for example owes $11 billion to litter cleanup costs( and others), many other societies suffer from this menace too! But the questions that haunt us are:

Why people litter? How to prevent it?

I think people litter to dispose things they don't need. If there is a better way to do that, people need to be told about it explicitly. But, anti-litter campaigns spend more time complaining than finding interesting ways of telling people not to litter or perhaps thank folks for not littering. Setting causal relation (littering makes the place littered and untidy) and giving positive reinforcement can be surprisingly effective. Have you seen the ad for encouraging blood donation? The little girl thanks a stranger for donating blood - when the stranger says he never donated blood, she just tells him to do so in future. Now, that's a darn simple and memorable communication.

Sometimes our frustration makes us ignore the easiest and the most effective of solutions.

Change in such collective habits occur when habits of a critical number of people change. And then, clean places repel littering behaviour of others.

While commuting in Delhi metro, people hold the urge to litter and wait till get out of the metro station. Clean stations of the metro subconsciously discourages littering.

Cleaner the surroundings, less people are likely to litter. So lets cleanup, not complain.!

1 comment:

  1. If people are given an option to discard their waste this issue can get resolved partially. Littering isn’t just physical waste items thrown all over the place, it also includes logical and verbal dirt like – “this pepsi tastes sh*t” (as told by a teen ager to the vending machine operator at Taco Bell). Also consider this, educated and people with more than enough money scribble in elevator walls all sorts of nasty stuff. How do we prevent it? Garbage bins, clean places, inscriptions, warnings, fine, etc will not help. It’s a change that should come from within!