Time to take out the trash
  • | dtinews.vn | January 19, 2010 10:04 AM

Trash piles up outside of Hanoi. Photo by David Cornish.

Last night I was speaking with my landlord about life in Hanoi. She is a very kind Vietnamese woman curious to find out how a foreigner views Hanoi. I told her that I loved the city and the people. She started asking me about some things that I didn't like. I thought about this, but before I could answer, she told me about something she doesn't like. The one thing about Hanoi that she really dislikes is the amount of littering and rubbish that piles up around the city.

My landlord can't stand the amount of waste lying on the streets and in the parks of Hanoi. She began telling me a story about a man who had inspired her. She often exercises in the mornings, and one day she saw a man, with a plastic bag, picking up trash near a lake that she likes to walk around. Her initial reaction was one of surprise and shock, "Why would he be doing this?"

As time moved on, she began seeing him out collecting trash every morning. She eventually talked to the man and realised that he was doing this because like her, he also enjoyed spending his time at the lake. He wanted to keep the area clean. It turned out that the man was from Korea, living in Vietnam for work. After some time, others started to join him. He set an example that people could follow, and because of this, one area of town is a little cleaner than it used to be.

Honestly, Hanoi is quite a dirty city. I have lived in dirtier places and cleaner places, poorer places and richer places, but in Hanoi, like many large cities, there is a major problem with waste. I would like to see a cleaner city, a greener city, and a city that recycles.

That is a lot to ask for, but we have to start somewhere.

This got me thinking, "What can we do about the littering problem in Hanoi and around the world?"

Waste, recycling, pollution; these are global concerns, but how can we address them locally?

The first thing we must acknowledge is that this is something that affects us all. To take pride in our community, we must respect our community. Throwing rubbish on the road seems to be second-nature for most people. That doesn't make it right.

This is a call for all of us to make a small difference in making our cities and towns a better place.

How can we make a difference? Well, I have thought about that and here are some of my suggestions:

The most important thing is awareness. People, starting at a young age, need to be made aware that littering is not good, it is lazy and disrespectful to our community. This means we have to lead by example. We cannot complain about trash if we, ourselves, are guilty of contributing to the problem. So like the man whom my landlord encountered, we must walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

Proper disposal of waste is necessary for sanitary reasons, health reasons, and environmental reasons. People and companies must acknowledge a certain level of accountability for the waste they produce. Education about this is extremely important. This needs to be done through schools, public service campaigns, signs, word of mouth, and any of the numerous other grass roots methods that will work.

More trash bins would make collection easier  

There seems to a shortage of garbage bins in Hanoi. Obviously, if there is nowhere to put your trash, then people are more likely to throw it on the ground. We need more places to dispose of garbage, preferably places that provide a way to separate cans, bottles and paper so that they can be recycled. This will make the streets more sanitary as well.

Another thing that we need to think about is the use of plastic bags. Often times a simple purchase like a bottle of water, comes accompanied with a plastic bag. This really isn't necessary. Let them save the bag for a larger purchase. When I lived in Korea, they had an interesting way of controlling plastic bag waste. Stores actually charged you for plastic bags. This resulted in people reusing plastic bags and a in a reduction of waste. This is a great idea, and one to consider, although I know it would take a long time to implement here.

Another possible solution that could help to cleanup our streets is this: people caught littering could be forced to clean up litter for a punishment.

Perhaps a community service programme that allows violators to help clean the community and raise awareness on how to make our towns and cities cleaner would be useful. Instead of other punishments that are likely more costly, maybe people who commit petty crimes can clean up litter as a punishment. Those who can't afford to pay fines could also "work" off their fines by doing community service. This would help to raise awareness and provide an outlet for making our towns and cities cleaner.

Every little bit counts and if we all make an effort to be more aware, we can help to make this an even better place.

If you have a suggestion that could provide a solution for waste problems locally or globally, please leave your comments below:

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