Littering in Eateries: A Dysfunctional Habit among the Phnom Penh Dwellers
Posted On : March, 22, 2017 | By Chamroeun Soy

Cambodia is of course rather a new country after achieving full peace in 1998 and high economic growth for the last two decades, which has translated into tremendous progress in the areas of poverty reduction, social welfare, and private consumption. Particularly, restaurants or what simply local eateries dispose of more garbage than any other kind of establishment in Phnom Penh since, per a December 2014 study in the Journal of Environment and Waste Management, large restaurants produce 891 kg of waste per week. The study also reveals the capital’s businesses and citizens generate over 1,500 tons of trash daily.

A proper disposal of garbage is a relatively new concept in Cambodia given the fact that the country is choking with trash all over the city, not to mention the littering in the countryside where proper disposal is a luxury and an alien concept. The health and environmental issues resulting from garbage are not taken into serious consideration. For outsiders, the way in which the waste is being handled in Cambodia is simply annoying and intolerable compared to a developing c ountry in a similar development stage even though they praise the warmth, hospitality, and friendliness of the Khmer people. Rather than attempting to focus on the issue of garbage disposal and management in a general sense, this writing concentrates on the littering in the restaurants or simple local eateries. This is because although many people complain about garbage, many residents fail to litter properly, which require actions to break this wicked habit.

Littering is rather a wicked habit

The act of littering, particularly throwing tissues in an eatery has indisputably improved over the years, but its progress is rather slow and damaging to the image and the beautification of the city. It reflects a poor sanitation in eateries and raises a question in issue of hygiene. A deeper puzzle is why the act of littering in eateries as a habit is hard to break.

You do not need to go far to see trash in many places in Phnom Penh, possibly apart from some touristic places or high-end eateries, which include foreign-targeted or expensive restaurants. At the local eateries, Phnom Penh dwellers often litter regardless of places, time and even situations. They rather see all the situation as fit to litter, particularly they litter (white) tissues and other types of napkins even though trash bins are available. On top of that, even though the owners even post a sign by saying please throw the trash into the bins, there are still people who litter out of the bins by simply just throwing them under the table or leave them in a mess on the table. This shows a dysfunctional behavioral problem because they are instructed to litter in the bins for their own well-being and sanitation, but they ignore to do so. It can also be a bad habit that is proved hard to break among Phnom Penh residents who are accustomed to littering and taking less regard to sanitation and environmental impact.

In the Cambodian context, the littering habit in an eatery is also explained by a concept that Khmer people are often behaving in a similar fashion. They follow what other are doing without serious consideration that littering is simply a horrible behavior. They possibly think if they follow the instruction to litter in the bins, they are the odd ones in that place even though that is a right and socially acceptable thing to do. Having said that, there is a trend that the young generations teach their kids not to litter even though the progress is gradual. In fact, you do not need a high level of education not to litter as you simply need to follow the instruction. In addition, what is important is that we dare to do the right thing even against the majority. It is the time to take a different mindset when it comes to rubbish as it affects your health, sanitation and even your overall image as a citizen of Cambodia.

Ways to cope with littering in the eateries in Phnom Penh

Even though littering is rather seen as a private issue, its category is also blurred because it affects other people in the same place. This writing intends to offer a few ways to deal with littering in eateries.

(1) Dare to do the right thing even it is not popular: being an odd one in the public is not everyone’s preference, specifically in relation to littering in the eateries. It is, however, imperative we dare to do the righteous thing which is conditioned to our logics and rationale. The first step to do the right and noble thing, possibly against the majority, is hard, but it is not impossible. As a person, one should aim to do the right thing and dare to correct others’ misbehavior to benefit yourself and others. If you see that people do not litter properly in the bins, you should set yourself as a role model by always throwing the litter in the bins in front of them. It might be taken as an offense, but people will realize it is for everyone’s good. On top of that, you can educate people are close to you, such as, your kids, relatives, friends, and colleagues not to litter so that they are aware of their own behavior in the public. You can be the role model for yourself, and for others.

(2) Allocate a visible and large trash bins in the eateries: one noticeable problem with the trash bins in the eating places or restaurants is that they are simply not neat, large and visible enough to the customers. If you as owners are serious about garbage disposal and proper littering, you must be strategic and creative in allocating the trash bins in your places. Those bins need to be large and visible enough so that they attract the customers’ attention. As owners, you must show them that you care about your place, the environment, sanitation and your customers’ wellbeing by being a role model so the customers will positively respond to this measure either directly or indirectly.

(3) Continue to print a large and visible sign of no littering in the eateries: the instruction of no littering is crucial even though it might not always be taken seriously by the customers. The way to change the game is not by simply posting a small sign. The owners need to print a large and visible instruction and place it strategically so that it allows the customers to read it and act. Avoid posting an instruction in the eateries that is simply for the sake of posting without any regard to its effectiveness and impact on behavior. Instruction is important, but how to utilize its significance and impact requires a radical and creative approach, which is to print the instruction in large, attention-captivating and easily visible format.

(4) Finally, promote environmental education: the environmental education about the rubbish and ways to dispose the waste properly is important in a sense it help to raise self-awareness, which is more powerful and effective than laws and regulations because it is a self-driven action. Even though it takes time to generate impact, the significance of the environmental education remains relevant because the goal is to accelerate the change in the dysfunctional behavior of littering in an anarchical and irresponsible manner.

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