Litter: Why?

Is it an infrastructure thing? If trash cans were available on every corner and a pick up service came every week, would it quickly become the social norm for Malayalams to use these bins instead of throwing their trash on the street? What would the marketing and end-user education have to look like for the littering behavior to change?

I had an interesting conversation with Jerry (our University of Iowa professor who was born and has working professionally India) around inner and outer cleanliness and general differences between the East and West. Inner cleanliness is very important in Indian culture. People sweep their houses multiple times a day. A clean diet is also central. In America, people I know vacuum once a week at most (I know Lizzy, I fall into a much dirtier sub-group). American culture is more attentive to outward appearances–lawns are mowed, cars are cleaned, streets are swept and trash is no longer tolerated (perhaps since the anti-litter marketing campaign of the 1960s).

For the Indian, Jerry continued, trash in the public realm is no big deal. The world is a big, chaotic, and dirty place. It’s silly to try to keep it all clean and tidy. Hmm. Food for thought. I still feel strongly about cleaning up the messes we make, and reducing the ecological resources we use in the first place, so we make less messes. I imagine many Indians would agree, the method for cleaning up human waste, however, will probably continue to look different than I’m accustomed.


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