Miraine Farrugia and Hale Bonello Our Lady Immaculate School Hamrun
Street litter includes all the waste materials that are thrown away irresponsibly, especially those thrown away in the streets. The smallest things, from cigarette butts up to the largest ones like bulky waste materials, form part of such litter.
Litter in the streets is continuously increasing due to irresponsible people. This problem is not only found in Malta, but all over the world. In fact, according to a British website called Kingdom 60% of the people in Britain drop litter and only 28% of them admit it.
We also went around Malta to collect evidence about what type of street litter is most common on our island. As can be seen in pictures 1 and 2, cigarette butts can be found everywhere! Around trees, next to dust bins, on pavements, and the list never ends! People are not careful to dispose of cigarette butts properly. They might be unaware that this tiny object takes very long to decompose.
Cigarette butts in the streets are unfortunately increasing nowadays. They can be seen everywhere, such as scattered along green spaces, sidewalks, roadsides and beaches. Worldwide, about 4.5 trillion cigarettes are littered each year. Cigarettes make up more than one-third, nearly 38%, of all collected litter. Disposing of cigarettes on the ground or out of a car is so common that 75% of smokers report doing it. Cigarette waste is considered to be very toxic for the environment. They leach toxic chemicals such as lead and arsenic, a substance used to kill rats. These can contaminate water.
According to an online portal ‘truth initiative’, the inside of cigarette may look like cotton but 98% of it is made of plastic fibers. These are not biodegradable. Although they don’t break down naturally, they can gradually decompose depending on environmental conditions like the rain and sun. Recent studies have found that a cigarette butt is only 38% decomposed after 2 years. In Malta, we have many beautiful beaches but unfortunately, we often find cigarette butts and micro plastics in the sand.
We carried out to see what opinion the local Maltese people have about cleanliness and litter in the Maltese streets. All the respondents agreed that street litter is a problem in Malta. However, 61% of the respondents think that the general Maltese public is not aware of this problem. A percentage of the respondents think that the local council works hard for the cleanliness of our towns, whereas people who think that our streets are dirty blame the public for its irresponsibility.
When asked about the main things that cause litter in the streets, respondents mentioned plastic, cigarette butts, bulky garbage, animal dirt, take-away food packaging, face masks, empty plastic bottles, food for stray animals, tissues, junk mail, and garbage bags are taken out on the wrong days and at the wrong time. Other responses include, the fact that not enough dustbins are found in the streets, and the fact that people overconsume. Many people tend to have the idea that their home is just the house they live in, and so keep it in perfect clean condition, without actually caring for the environment. The lack of education amongst citizens was also frequently mentioned. Streets seem to be the most problematic because of litter, followed by public areas such as playing fields etc.
The most common problems caused by litter, mentioned by the respondents are:
- The spread of diseases due to lack of hygiene that increases insects and rats in our streets.
- It releases an unpleasant smell and toxic chemicals might leach from it.
A huge amount of litter can be recycled, including plastic bottles and drinking cans. Recycling plastic saves twice as much energy as burning it in an incinerator. Also, recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to run a television for three hours. More worrying situations, such as broken glass, rusty cans, and lit cigarettes which are left lying round can cost people and animals’ health or even more seriously, their lives.The invisible costs of litter can affect us all. People living on littered streets, could expect to see their house prices devaluate. Such litter also pollutes the environment.
What could one do to reduce litter in the streets?
- Pet owners should clean up after their pets.
- Call the free service Bulky Refuse to collect your Bulky waste, instead of leaving it on the pavement or throwing it in a remote place.
- Take out your garbage out in time for the garbage collectors to collect it.
- If you feed stray cats, make sure to leave the place clean after doing so, and place the cats’
food in a suitable container rather than on the floor.
- People in charge could also clean the culverts found in streets so that litter found in them would not make its way through the streets when it rains.
If litter is already present, people would not see the harm in adding a little bit more. If an area is already clean people will find it difficult to litter, and thus keep the area clean.
Litter takes a long time to decompose. Plastic can take 1000 years to decompose whilst a banana peel can take two years to do so if left on the streets.
Therefore, we should pay more attention to dispose of litter responsibly because this affects many aspects of life, such as the environment and costs, the countries’ economy and even our health. Such litter is an eyesore. In fact, many tourists who visit Malta comment on this beautiful island and its scenery, but a lot of them notice the lack of cleanliness.