Peace for the World

Peace for the World
First democratic leader of Justice the Godfather of the Sri Lankan Tamil Struggle: Honourable Samuel James Veluppillai Chelvanayakam

Sunday, April 23, 2017

What we need to be teaching our children after the Meethotamulla tragedy 

article_imageApril 23, 2017, 12:00 pm

Last week we went for a movie in Colombo. We hadn’t been to one in quite a long time, months actually and I was seriously shocked to see how the level of cleanliness (amongst other things) had dropped at this theatre. The seats were slashed and there were left over bits of popcorn on the floor in front of our seats even before our movie started. I suppose it is uncommon to see a cinema in such a state since most of our movie theatres have been through recent refurbishments and offer rather good services. The service and quality of this one, however, had gone down dramatically. It is when the movie ended however that I was shocked and thoroughly dismayed. Walking out of the hall, I was simply shocked to see the amount of bottles, boxes, tissues and popcorn dumped on the floor. If it was just a bit near a couple of chairs I could have assumed that it could have been an ‘accident’ (though honestly, if it was an accident, picking it up and putting it in the box would have been the right thing to do!!) I was appalled to see how many of people had actually left their drink bottles and pop corn boxes on the seats (which had then probably fallen on the floor) instead of picking it up and disposing of it properly?

What is saddening is that this took place a very few days after the Meethotamulla Garbage Dump tragedy and I was shocked at how quickly people ‘forget’ or in this instance, how unbothered people are about littering public places and about proper garbage and refuse disposal. While people are calling for the government to talk action about our garbage problems, we have forgotten that we the citizens too have a part to play. The movie that we watched was a children’s movie and it brings to question, what are we teaching our kids when we think it’s alright to just ‘tip’ the left over bit of popcorn onto the floor and leave? Walk around Colombo and you’d find most of our roads littered, drains clogged with milk packets, yogurt cups and the like. I recently went past Attidiya Lake and it was atrociously dirty with plastic bags, bottles and muck. We need to be teaching our children how to take care of the environment and by setting an example, we would be doing our part in keeping the environment clean.

While places like San Francisco are making headway towards zero-waste by 2020, we have a very very long way to go. There are however certain things that we can learn from these kinds of models, implement them at an individual level and teach our children to diligently follow and just by doing that, we would have done our part.

Here are some things that we should be doing:

Eliminate waste properly. Start by having three bins at home to eliminate waste: one for things that can be recycled, another for things that can be composted and the last for things that can neither be recycled nor composted. Clearly mark these and explain to your children which items need to go into which bins so that they can do their bit and not just dump everything in one bin. Things which can go into the recycle bin are aluminium cans, aluminium foil and bake ware, tin cans such as soup cans and fish cans, paper and cardboard, juice and diary cartons, mail, glass bottles, plastics (please make sure that it is cleaned before it is dumped into the bin, as one unclean or half empty bottle in a bale of plastic can spoil the whole load). Kitchen waste should go into another bin and while our local municipalities do pick up kitchen waste from us, consider making your own compost. It would help people in areas where garbage is now being directed to. The lesser refuse you have sending out of your house, the lesser problems it will cause till our government comes up with a long term feasible plan for garbage disposal. Your Mixed Recycling Bin should have the following and you might have to sort them out more carefully and figure out if there are people in your area who can make use of these things and recycle them individually and in some instances there are private institutions that recycle them.

Any glass contaminated with stones, dirt, and food waste

Ceramics, such as dishware, ovenware, and decorative items.

Heat-resistant glass, such as Pyrex.

Mixed colors of broken glass.

Mirror or window glass.


Light bulbs: Find out how to recycle here.

Stop using PET plastic bottles. The heat is unbearable, I know, but we need to make a conscious effort to stop purchasing plastic water bottles. Did you know that PET plastic is the most common material used for single-use bottled beverages, because it is inexpensive, lightweight, unbreakable and easy to recycle. It takes more than 1.5 million barrels of oil to produce a year's supply of water bottles. That's enough oil to fuel 100,000 cars for a year. So the next time you are stepping out of home, fill a glass bottle or a BPA free plastic bottle with water and avoid PET bottles.

The same goes for plastic grocery bags. Since the Meethotamulla tragedy, I’ve made it a point to keep an extra set of cloth grocery bags in the vehicle and another at home which I regularly use. Consider keeping a foldable cloth bag in your handbag that can be used if you suddenly find yourself in a position where you are not carrying a cloth bag when you are shopping.

Get your children to do rough work and such on paper that has one side used. If there are school books with pages from a previous year that can be used for home use – do so.

Teach your children to never litter public roads, places or even at home. If they drop something, teach them that it needs to be picked up and put into the right bin. So whether it is a tissue accidently dropped or the need to dispose of a paper, they need to know that dropping it ‘wherever’ is not acceptable.

Teach your children to reuse. For example: use egg cartons as a paint holder for kids to paint with and teach them that when you do get plastic bags that they can be used as trash bags.

Schools too can implement proper waste disposal and teach their students the importance of taking care of the environment.

These are just few of the things that we can do with keeping our environment clean. There’s so much more that should be done to make sure that we ‘Live Green’ which includes minimizing the use of water, detergent, soap and not wasting electricity. Remember, if adults set a bad example by doing tasks in front of children the wrong way, then of course the children learn to do these tasks the wrong way as well. They don’t know it’s the wrong way, they are just learning. So SET AN EXAMPLE! You might have to do some research on it, but we need to make sure that the environment is safe enough for our children and that tragedies like Meethotamulla do not take place on our watch.