Thursday, 4 December 2008

Subjective notion on garbage

Waste or garbage, can be seen from many different point of view. It can be perceived in totally different ways depending on who you talk to. For some, waste is a source of income, for many waste is a dirty things, a potential risk to health or something worthless, while for some waste is something that is discarded by someone, implicating uselessness. How waste can be perceived in totally different ways depending on who you talk to. People in general, can be categorized as waste producers. When we think of waste and garbage we might think of consequences for public health and the environment. The perception of waste as posing a health hazard is widely spread and promoted, and is sometimes also reinforced by experiences of garbage as constituting a real health problem. It is not surprising that, besides often has a strong negative aesthetic aspect, the characteristics of most waste, the unpleasant looks and smell, makes it easy to relate to waste as a risk for health. Unless is forced to, or as a part of his/her source of income, nobody wants to live nearby garbage.

At the junction of jl. Cirebon & jl. Bandung one of the business district in Medan.
Take a closer look at the woman selling food near garbage mount (below).

Waste in the street can be perceived as a social contagion, an artifact of negative aesthetics. In the mind of people a dirty street is assumed to add some of its qualities to the characteristics of the people living nearby. Thus a dirty street is feared because it could give the impression that people living in that street are also dirty in the eyes of other living in the cleaner district. No one likes to be branded dirty in the eyes of another and some people seem to fear being categorized as dirty due to someone else’s behavior.

Not one single man thought it would be convenient to litter in a very clean street. People were likely to respond that in a very dirty place, where there already was a pile of garbage, there would be nothing stopping them. Although some people expresses concern about the risk of throwing certain types of waste in the street, the main reasons for not littering or throwing garbage in clean streets apparently have more to do with social conventions than worrying about the garbage. Self control is rather directed towards not destroying aesthetic aspects than being normative in the way of ‘never litter’

For some, garbage constitutes a significant problem. They live in districts without a garbage collection service or in neglected neighborhoods. They also take the trash out on the street, but when they wake up it is still there. Their children play in it and occasionally suffer from the health effects, and dogs and cats rip open the bags and spread around the contents. Flies and other vectors accumulate, and foul odours fill the air.

A hut of garbage collector for whom garbage is a source of income

Despite such unpleasant characteristics, garbage is for some the only source of income and can truly be a blessing from God. One man’s waste may be another man’s livelihood.