Litterbugs – What Shall We Do With Them?

By Michelle Ng

Litterbugs are a constant problem, and it takes a whole system to deal with them. It starts with education right up to enforcement.

Education, like Japan, fosters a community that cares for their surroundings and are compliant with local laws. When successful, governments save a lot of money as little needs to be spent for public cleaning works.

Enforcement complements education. Where education fails for certain segments, application of the law should deter and punish. However, where the laws are not reviewed regularly to keep up with increasingly poor behaviour, its effectiveness becomes questionable.

More so in Selangor. In my view, Selangor needs a tailor-made law to deal with its unique challenges of its high population and large amount of waste. This law should cover issues such as waste management (appointment of managing body or contractors), waste disposal (landfill or waste to energy?), recycling (to mandate or not?) to punishment (fines, prison sentence?).

In fact, in the last State Assembly sitting, I mooted the idea of imposing community service on litterbugs. Like it or not, the current fine of not more than RM1000 may be too cheap for some. However, community service – the idea of being seen and known for littering our streets might hit a nerve, and to that end might be more effective.

What are the steps then, that need to be done to see this happen? There are two ways – both of which require the assent of the Federal Government as it involves laws which covers overlapping jurisdiction (here, the Local Government Act 1976).

First, Parliament may amend the Local Government Act to give Councils the power to compound littering offences by imposing community service. This has not been done.

In the absence of Parliament’s own initiative, the second option for states to enact our own Enactment. Selangor has in fact drafted our own Waste Collection, Disposal, Removal and Public Cleansing Enactment and has twice been sent to the Federal Government for approval.

However, sadly, the Federal Government rejected both requests.

My view is this – given that the Federal Government has no intention of amending the Local Government Act, and given that the challenges of each state is unique, waste management must be devolved at least to States and I would argue, even to Local Governments. Like transport, it does not make sense for waste management to be centrally governed.

Sadly, therefore, until we see such a day, it looks like we would have to manage with our existing system.