Honiara City Council Clean-Up-Campaign: Is it working?

The Honiara City Council Clean-Up-Campaign has been going on for quite sometime now, but in spite of the massive efforts to mobilise the citizens of Honiara by way of involving them in cleaning up the streets and residential areas, not very much has changed over the past decade. Honiara city is still regarded by commentators and visitors who frequent Honiara as one of the dirtiest cities in the South Pacific. What else could the Honiara City Council do to address the growing problem related to trash?

Our city is often littered with all sorts of trash; from tiny half-burnt-matches-sticks to cigarette butts, plastics, paper, empty cartoons, betel nut husks, stains of betel-nut sputum on foot-paths, stairways, and along the corridors and walls of buildings, empty taiyo cans, bottles (glass/plastic), pieces of calico, coconut shells, leaves, bones, metals of all sorts, half burnt trash of all sorts. Even 44-gallon-drums that are purposely placed at key points along the major streets of Honiara so that passer-bys could throw their trash in them (if they wish to do so), can also be seen lying idle along the road-sides.

There is not a single day the trash I have listed above cease to appear on our streets. But this is despite the efforts of full-time council workers, who on a daily routine 'comb' the streets to rid off the trash that irresponsible passer-bys drop as they walk along the streets. This is also despite the involvement of some church organisations, youths, men and women, the-old-and-young, girls-and-boys who voluntarily give up their time on some weekends to pick up the mess that some of our careless citizens drop, perhaps intentionally or sub-consciously, whatever their reasons are!

Moreover, if you observed the streets on the following morning after a major clean-up event or an hour after the volunteers have removed the trash along the main highway or major streets, you'd notice how clean the town is. I mean it looks very clean, tidy, and not a sight of the trash I mentioned would be visible except the rusty drums in the main shopping centre, which are a real eye-sore. But wait a minute, its not over yet. Try visit the streets again in three days time! Gosh, what would you expect to find on the same spots previously 'combed' by the council workers or volunteers? You'd see piles of trash of the same characteristics, size, texture and scent as the ones I described earlier on. It was only a few days ago that the whole street was rid off the undesirable debris. You'd asked who the hell has done the mess again! Nobody will tell you the exact answer you'd like to hear. Neither will the passer-bys tell you the root cause of trash disposal though obvious the reasons may seem. So how can we overcome the scenario that I have just described? What other strategies are there left for the Honiara City Council Clean-Up-Campaigners to use to bring some sense to those that continue to ignore all responsible people's plea to dispose their trash in the most appropriate manner?

In my view the answer to the trash problem in our city may lie within us. It has to do with our attitude towards what we perceive as trash, and the methods that individuals employ to dispose their trash! So how can we educate Honiara citizens to develop not only a caring attitude towards their surrounding but most importantly to use appropriate ways to dispose off their trash, whatever its size, characteristic or texture?

How can we develop positive attitudes in ourselves towards taking responsibility for the trash that we create, for example, a betel-nut husk after we've extracted the kernel? More importantly, how can we teach our children to dispose their trash appropriately? If we want to ensure that the future generation demonstrate respect, responsibility and a caring attitude towards their surrounding - the environment in which they live, play and interact with their peers, then HCC will need to refocus their attention to the school children of Honiara. I believe that a long-term solution to the trash issue could be resolved, if HCC initiate a School Trash Action Program, whereby all primary and secondary schools are involved. The School Trash Program would need to be embedded within the existing school program or activities and should not be seen as a separate entity. The current school curriculum comprises of environmental topics that are related to how humans should look after their environment including appropriate ways of sorting and disposing their trash.

What is really needed in my view is that a Primary School Trash Management Program should be implemented in all primary schools in Honiara involving the HCC, School Managements and teachers, as well as pupils, in practical activities that would enable children to develop positive attitudes or behaviours on how they should dispose off their trash. One suggestion is for all school children to be provided with a trash bag each, made of denim cotton fabric that could be easily folded and placed at the back pocket of their school bags. The pupils should take their trash bags with them to school everyday and put their food wrappings, paper, plastic and any trash they produce each day in their trash bags. Each pupil would then empty the contents of their trash bags at the end of each day either at the trash bin at their school or home. Schools should provide proper trash bins for pupils to empty their trash in, and to teachers should monitor their pupils to ensure the objectives of the program are achieved. At home, parents should also support the program by providing proper trash bins where their children can empty their trash as well as monitor dispose off their trash each day.

Finally, the HCC through its Environment Division should organise school inspections to find out whether the program is working and to provide support where applicable. The Environment Division should also organise awards for schools and individual pupils who have demonstrated exceptional commitment towards the program. The award could also include cash prizes for outstanding schools and individual pupils. The above suggestion is, but one strategy, out of many others that both the HCC and school managements could employ to contribute towards the beautification of our schools and town environments on a sustained basis. Furthermore, such programs could go a long way in fostering positive attitudes, behaviours and values in our young generation so that they can respect and take care of the environment in which they live, including our streets, path-ways, public places and even homes.