Avatar chandrasa.sjamsudin
Editor, French Language Coordinator, Translator
Maret 26, 2018
The Litter Quitter


Here I was working hard watching YouTube when I came upon a very important topic: how to train your dog to throw away trash. This was followed immediately with an utmost serious clip on how to train crows to put things into the garbage bin. I was enthralled! As a positive person I didn’t let the fact that I don’t have a dog, let alone a crow, stop me from acquiring such knowledge. Who knows what will happen in the future, right? Maybe now I’m Chandrasa, a Polyglot Indonesia Language Coordinator, but who’s to say that I might not become also Chandrasa the Crow Whisperer?

Anyway, this garbage issue led me thinking: if we can train animals to do what’s good for our planet then children can be taught not to litter, right?

I am a mom of several school-age kids and recently one recited the 4 Rs Principles to me. At his school, the 4R stands for: reduce, recycle, reuse and replace. The latter varies at times, I’ve seen it defined also as recover, recreate, replace etc. If children are at the point of implementing the 4Rs, obviously they are already informed about the basic rule: put rubbish in the bin. So, why am I seeing trash thrown haphazardly about in a children’s soccer competition, by children, nonetheless? One child, after using his water bottle to shower his head, threw it recklessly on the ground without any hesitation whatsoever.

So, the ball is back at our court; as adults, can we now enforce this positive behaviour to become an ingrained and lasting habit for our children? Before we head bang and answer enthusiastically “Yeah, can do, man!”, let’s ask ourselves, do we, as mighty mighty adult human beings, throw our garbage in the appropriate place? We do? Really? Let’s see:

  • Who got into a fist fight quite recently because trash thrown out of a car smacked the face of a motor passenger?
  • After watching a movie, who discards empty popcorn boxes and bottles on the floor beside their seats when leaving the cinema?
  • Who gets rid of waste by dumping them into the rivers?
  • Who puts trash on top of someone’s grave in the cemetery? (if you’re not familiar with this story, just google the keywords ‘trash’ and ‘cemetery’)

Let me make you aware that the prefrontal cortex, which is the rational part of the brain, is fully developed by the time a person is 25. This is the part of the brain that adults think with, responds to situation and is aware of long-term consequences.

Our brain knows that:

  • Throwing away trash where they’re not supposed to go is bad.
  • The environment is already burdened by the loads of waste we produce.
  • There is already a Law in place on waste management, including a Governor’s Instruction on waste placement, which contains monetary and social sanctions for people caught littering.

Yet, we still do it. Why?

Mostly it’s because we are too lazy, we feel too entitled thinking someone else will do it, or we couldn’t care less.  Therefore let’s admit that there is actually no rational/justifiable/good/acceptable (take your pick) reason as to why we still litter. Nada, zilch, nix. It’s not right for the environment, it’s against the law and it sets a bad example for the future generation.

So, let’s own up to our bad habit and avow to change it so our children can follow our good footsteps.   

Of course, not all is bad. I am so thrilled to hear about the “Citarum Harum” program.  It delights me when I found out that the cafeteria of a certain European mega-DIY store located in Tangerang enforces the rule of visitors clearing their own tables after they’ve completed their meal. I support this and try to teach my children to do so in other fast food joints (where possible), which funnily seems to fluster the cleaning staff there.

In addition to “Speak Up” (which is Polyglot Indonesia’s motto), I call upon our Polyglot Indonesia members to also “Clean Up” and be a litter quitter; how about that, are you game?

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