Why Indonesians Litter Everywhere

LITTERING everywhere is one of Indonesians’ worst habits. This of course is not only found in Indonesia and its people. Thoughtless littering knows no races and geographical boundaries and nationalities. Even in the West (read: Anglosaxon countries), such a habit may be spotted in green and spotless countryside in summer. David Sedaris has been a witness and a relentless trash-picking activist in his idyllic English neighborhood where he now lives with his partner.

However, thoughtless littering has reached a shameful level in Indonesia as we all can see in public places where cleanliness must always be maintained. Such ignorance subconsciously conveys a message that thoughtless littering is never a social disgrace or misconduct. Although placards of waring have been stuck, erected and hung here and there (stating that litterers can be sued and fined for a huge sum of money or sent to jail), I personally hardly believe and feel positive that it will be in fact reinforced.

Why? Here are some underlying assumptions and perceptions why Indonesians – or people around me and myself – have come to this worst level of super massive thoughtless littering which we should have felt ashamed of but unfortunately is never taken very very seriously.

Ignorance in family education

Not many children I’ve seen these days have the innate and ingrained awareness since their early years that littering is never okay and thus must never be deemed trivial violations of norms. The simplest reason behind it is perhaps these children are advised to maintain cleanliness within their school area or home. Once they are out of the school or home zone, they understand by examples of adults aroud  them that littering is always forgiven.

Cleanliness is a mere formality

Adipura, I guess, is the most ridiculous award there is on earth. In Indonesia, the award is meant to show which city deserves the cleanest title.   It is so sickening to me because it never manages to awaken public awareness of cleanliness. Since a long time ago, I have questioned what is the essence of Adipura as winners are determined based on cleanliness of certain zones in a city or town. I know this because I read myself a sign stating that the spot must be maintained clean because judges are to observe it. It definitely ignores trash management in actuality, people’s ways of life, city plan and design and cleanliness maintenance in general. It does not only apply in certain hours, dates but also the entire year. Cleanliness here is a false mask to put on when deemed necessary, to please leaders/ superiors, and to bring more prestige to a local leader and administrations s/he leads.

Trash – including plastic – is considered perishable naturally

Indonesians treat plastic trash and other types of trash – whether it be organic, anorganic or toxic – pretty much the same. Just throw away to fill an empty patch of land and burn it down, not knowing that burning has even polluted the air even more. What an ignorance. That explains why people here buy and use plastic bags and containers liberally and guiltlessly, like their grandparents buying and using banana leaves to wrap foods without thinking twice.

Money solves all

Indonesians never think in the long term. So when they see trash, they seek instant solutions, i.e. pay other people to set trash aside from their view. “Why bother going all the way to find a trash can or litter bin if you can just throw trash away? There will always be people who are willing to get paid to clean all the mess.” That’s what is in their heads. Those who get paid for cleaning by the authorities are abundant and thus spoils everyone. Therefore, they only care about cleanliness around their own neghborhood or house or apartment. Outside their homes, cleanliness is the responsibility of the government. This overdependence on the government explains a lot why Indonesians always blame all their mess on authorities or public officials. They never blame it all on themselves. Pathetic. Now you know why it always looks clean in a well-off neghborhood but poverty-stricken neighborhoods almost always look horribly littered.

Littering is no serious offense

Is there viral news showing us how unforgiving and stern the Indonesian law is towards littering? Impossible. In the middle of a people so infatuated with sensational gossips and political updates, such news would be very much less interesting. And because of this, Indonesians are so ignorant of the awareness that littering is a serious environmental crime. And who are you to make reports even if you witness a person littering where s/he must not. Everyone must think,”Well, that’s none of my business. It’s totally the public officials (government). Who am I?” Plus, usually a litterer is a familiar person to us, e.g. a person living next door or family members you ought to respect or at least treat nicely no matter what happens. What mostly happens is pretending you never saw or witnessed it. That’s the best and easiest solution.

Trash management is never an important issue

Indonesia’s trash management is never serious and comprehensive and the government fails over time to show its goodwill to improve systematically and sustainably and real. And it is more about importing cutting-edge, very durable, and so pricey trash containers. Though it helps, of course it requires more than that to solve this extremely complicated problem. Another thing to show the failure is the fact that Indonesians don’t feel necessary to throw away trash according to its proper categories although they are already provided with 3 trashes to simply separate trash of dissimilar types. Such separate trash cans act as prention that this nation has also applied what other more developed nations have applied. But too bad it’s all fake and staged because after that the trash is treated just the same way as before.

Is cleanliness part of faith?

It is no concidence that Indonesians are mostly muslims and they never care about cleanliness. Since their early years, they are taught that cleanliness is part of their faith. “So there is no problem because there’s still the rest. Not all of it is gone,” their subconscious mind makes a lame excuse. So maybe from now on, it had better to start deconstructing such world view. Dirt is part of sin, perhaps that is how it should be taught. (*/)