Effects of marine litter on marine life have significantly increased. In 2015, 557 species were reported to be affected by the excessive amount of marine litter. The effects include entanglement, smothering, and ingestion of plastic (Kuhn, Renolledo, and Franeker, 2015). Research on anti-littering behaviour indicates that marine littering is a cultural matter driven by micro or individual factors and macro or social factors. Micro factors are closely related to individual behaviour associated with awareness, perception, attitude, and concern; macro factors are related to policies and legislation influence. At the micro level, many people lack awareness of the environmental impacts of marine littering. Some people regard marine debris as an insignificant environmental and economic problem; some believe that the oceans can absorb any amount of marine debris. At the macro level, the social authorities are important to prevent marine litter because they are responsible for planning, monitoring, evaluating, and implementing corrective actions. Micro and macro factors intertwine. Encouraging anti-littering behaviour at the micro level can eventually influence behavioural changes at the macro level. Social and policy changes can greatly influence perceptions at the micro level (Beehary et al., 2017).

Some mechanisms can help change individual behaviour from the micro to the macro levels:

Awareness-raising programmes

Following Indonesia’s National Action Plan for Marine Debris Management 2018–2025, the government of Denpasar, Bali, in collaboration with the Technical Implementation Unit of the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries held underwater clean-up activities, which started by declaring an end to littering of oceans. Held in Semawang Beach on Earth Day 2017, the goal of the activities was to raise social awareness on the importance of a clean and healthy marine environment. The activities resulted in the collection of 260 kilogrammes of marine wastes.

The Government of Singapore believes that better public cleansing is not enough if people are not responsible. A National Environment Agency of Singapore report cited several educational campaigns to encourage people’s participation in cleansing efforts, starting with Keep Singapore Clean, introduced in 1968 to prevent littering in streets, drains, and other public areas. The effort was followed by a relentless stream of documentaries, short films, posters, banners, and pamphlets about the importance of not littering. The campaign’s positive impacts were evident in 1988, when the country became cleaner and more people became aware of the negative impacts of littering. Singapore employs micro- and macro-level mechanisms against littering in an aggressive campaign through Keep Singapore Clean.

Japan is famous for its cleanliness. However, until the early 1960s, littering was common. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government launched a campaign in 1964 to prevent littering before the Tokyo Olympics, raising public awareness by encouraging citizens to show foreigners visiting the city a clean version of Tokyo (Asahi Shimbun, 2018)

Penalties for littering

South Tangerang in Indonesia took a bold step in 2013 by enacting Regulation No. 3/2014 on Waste Management. It emphasises that wastes must be utilised, managed, and disposed of properly. It prohibits littering on roads and in green open spaces, rivers, drainage systems, and public facilities. Every citizen is required to dispose of wastes in TPS-3Rs (transfer points with recycling activity for municipal solid waste) or TPSs (transfer points for municipal solid waste). Violation of the regulation could lead to penalties.

The city of Manila in the Philippines started implementing Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Regulation No. 96-009 or the Anti-Littering Law on 16 September 2010. The regulation prohibits littering; illegal dumping; illegal garbage disposal; improper and untimely piling up of garbage outside buildings; and spilling, scattering, and littering of wastes by public utility vehicles. Fines or rendering of community services are imposed for violations.

Based on a sociological study of litteringSingapore has the most stringent law focusing on violators. The Corrective Work Order, which came into force on 1 November 1992 as an amendment to the anti-littering law, requires violators to clean public areas such as parks or beaches for up to 12 hours instead of paying fines. The aim is to show offenders the impact of their actions and the challenges facing cleaners.

Buy-back programme

The buy-back programme is designed to exchange delivered recyclable wastes with money. The programme has been implemented in some ASEAN+3 countries.

In Indonesia, the buy-back programme is popularly known as Bank Sampah or waste bank. Bank Sampah in Malang city is handled by the local government and designed to show that waste is a source of money, not problems. Locals can earn by providing clean or washed recyclable wastes. The programme, however, deals only with high-value recyclable wastes that can be sold to buy-back centres.

In case of low-value waste, the government, for instance, can enforce extended producer responsibility, which requires producers to bear the cost of recycling or to achieve a set recycling rate (OECD, 2014). Some non-governmental organisations raise funds from industries or individuals to support collection of plastic waste by informal workers (Ahsan et al., 2012).

Installing or removing waste bins

Singapore has exerted massive efforts to transform itself from being a litter-messy country into one of the cleanest in the world. The government provides adequate garbage bins (every 5–25 metres) throughout the country. The bins are emptied at least once a day to avoid overflowing garbage (Straughan et al., 2011).

The opposite strategy was implemented in Japan in 1964, when the Tokyo metropolitan government removed half a million public waste bins from the streets before the Tokyo Olympics. At that time, waste bins could no longer accommodate the huge amount of wastes, exacerbated by wind blowing wastes out of the bins. Waste collection was infrequent. The government urged people to dispose of their wastes in their own waste bins and putting them out before 8:00 a.m. Waste bins are still found today in railway stations or in front of convenience stores, managed not by local governments but by railway companies or convenience stores (Asahi Shimbun, 2018).

Although different in their approaches, Singapore and Japan demonstrated proper waste collection.

Proper waste collection

In many developing countries, rural areas are more exposed to environmental impacts, including those caused by improper waste collection. Several factors cause this severe condition:  low population density, poor socio-economic conditions, geographical segregation, dispersed waste collection points, low collection frequency, and poor accessibility to landfills and recycling and waste treatment facilities. These lead to open burning and river dumping practices (Mihai and Grozavu, 2019).

Waste collection services in Japan started in urban areas because mismanaged waste caused sanitation issues, such as the spread of cholera and typhoid. To prevent and minimise these diseases, the government promoted urban waste collection services (Ministry of Environment of Japan, 2014).


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