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Namibia waste - don't litter

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You are here: Namibia General Info Namibia waste - don't litter

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  pippa Sunday, 28 January 2007 18:33

Namibia waste - don't litter

Few things in today's day and age are more tiresome than litter. And far from wanting to patronise my readers with yet another lecture on littering, one can not help but notice the carelessness with which Namibians, as well as visitors to our country, abuse the sensitive environment per se as a rubbish dump. Particularly after the Christmas holiday season and on weekends the road verges of our national carriers have to shoulder this burden.

Indeed it is poor reflection of our society that we would rely on sub-contractors to clean up our road verges. And to boot, said contractor merely collected the trash only to cart it a few kilometres away from the tarmac and dump it in the open landscape. Whether he intended to bury it at a later stage or not is irrelevant - the hypocrisy of the matter remains that tourists commend us on the cleanliness of our country. If we reflect on the statistics for a second we end up with a desperately miserable failure indeed: how can a country of barely two million inhabitants deem it necessary to employ subcontractors to clean up the countryside, when a mega-million city like Singapore can be spotless without even employing street-sweepers?

Yes, littering is a punishable offence by law even in Namibia, but has anybody ever been convicted? The fact remains, litter is not only a scourge defacing our landscape - which is ever so noticeable with its sparse vegetation - but it is also a hazard to our ecology. Toxins from inks and bleached labels leach into the soil and broken bottles and razor sharp can-edges pose a threat to our wildlife.

The synthetic fabric of cigarette butts will not decompose even under the most favourable conditions in less than thirty years, i.e. when buried in moist climates. The same goes for beer cans: Recently I discovered a cache of old beer cans in a sandy river bed that still bore the label of the old South West Breweries. Apart from the fact that the cans had not rusted (the labels were slightly bleached), the perennial torrent had unearthed a pseudo-aesthetic placebo.

How to deal with trash then when going out into the wilderness? For starters, when you do your tour-shop keep in mind that there will be no garbage collectors 'out there' and that in today's age of excessive wrapping every extra piece of cellophane or plastic could be a potential littering agent. (Even the wrappers of sweets dished out to kids in the countryside most often will be carelessly discarded; as are wrappers for drinking straws attached to some of fruit juice brands.)

Take along extra-strong trash bags. You will be amazed at the amount of garbage a small party of even five can generate over just two or three days. Woven bags are the most durable, because invariably they end up strapped onto the roof of your four-wheel drive for another few days until you can find a suitable dump site. Burn as much as you can, but remember that the aluminium liners of milk and cigarette boxes do not burn or melt at such low temperatures. Those need to be extracted from the ashes afterwards or are disposed beforehand.

Organic waste can be buried at a suitable site away from camp in order to decompose, but preferably not in a sandy riverbed where it could be washed up during the next rainy season. Egg-shells, banana peels, apple cores and, worst of all, orange peels will not be eaten by gerbils or other wildlife critters when flung into a nearby bush and they will certainly not decompose, but instead just turn to unsightly litter.

Avoid taking glass or bottles to the bush - they break and take up space. Cans at least can be crushed and returned to a Collect-A-Can depository and cartons or boxes burned. Make a point of informing your fellow campers of the situation even at the danger of sounding condescending (as I am now) and what system or programme you are following to combat it. In future Namibia will hopefully actively endorse recycling programmes which will make it possible for us to return most of our trash from the bundus.

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