A hot day, buttermilk, and the satisfied discards of the litter-ati

So, right in front of our car is a bus. And somewhere, way ahead, is a closed railway gate. It’s a hot day. The bus is a long-distance bus, but not of the luxury sort.

The situation presents a business opportunity.

Sure enough, along comes a man with a cloth bag. There are plastic straws in a plastic pouch in his shirt pocket. His bag is full of plastic pouches with buttermilk and he takes out a couple of pouches and waves them out to the passengers in the bus. Hands wave back at him.

Business is brisk. Dozens of packets are sold. Some passengers even get down to buy them.

The vendor walks away.

And then the plastic packets start flying out of the window, sucked empty. Straws, too. They are thrown by the persons inside the bus, who do not even bother to check if anyone is passing near the bus; one packet almost falls on a scooterist who is trying to squeeze his way to the front of the winding queue of vehicles.

I’m sure you can picture what happens.It has taken just a few minutes and a buttermilk vendor to convert a relatively clean stretch of roadside mud to a splatter of discarded plastic.

bus stopsvendor selling stuff arivesvendor does businessvendor does businesspacket thrown outheap of littered packets

We are a culture without dustbins. I don’t think the bus had a dustbin; roads rarely do, anyway. And I don’t think anyone would have even looked for one, because these things are all inter-connected–people don’t look for or demand dustbins, they don’t expect them. They also don’t miss them. Packets can always be thrown out of the window, right?

Years ago, too, there were such buses, such vendors, such quenchers of thirsts. But the buttermilk was supplied in glasses that were collected back. Or in glass bottles that were paid for, and the money refunded when the bottle was returned. Or in earthen cups.

Not in plastic packets that won’t bio-degrade.

And here’s a thought: If they priced plastic packets to take into account the environmental costs, I suspect we’d be serving buttermilk in washable and collect-back glasses again.

4 thoughts on “A hot day, buttermilk, and the satisfied discards of the litter-ati”

  1. One of the reasons for my son forbidding me to go out driving alone is the number of occasions on which I got into scraps with people doing such foolish things. I am now escorted by a driver who scoots the minute he sees some trouble somewhere. Sigh.

  2. Well, confronting people about littering does seem dangerous. Littering is so widespread that there is no sense of “wrongness” to it, more a sense of “so what?”. And without sufficient and conveniently placed dustbins, littering becomes “natural.” Some people may not litter, but most people aren’t going to drink the buttermilk and then tuck away the dripping plastic pouch carefully in their backpacks/ purses till they find a dustbin or reach home.

  3. Yes, I agree. In fact, we already have laws on littering, but I’ve seen rubbish thrown right in front of signs proclaiming fines for littering. I think laws will make more a difference if a “critical mass” of people see littering as wrong and it is considered socially wrong, and it is also convenient to behave responsibly (enough dustbins, for example). Right now, most people don’t mind trash, and don’t want to work hard to have a cleaner city. They throw stuff right in front of their own shops and homes, too. And I doubt whether there is enough manpower to “force” people to stop littering.

  4. Laws need to be made and fast, supervision is required to see these laws are adhered to. This littering of public places is a serious problem in many parts of Asia and S.E.Asia.

    Hong Kong, where I live is litter free. We have tasteful and clean bins everywhere. No one throws stuff out of cars or buses. There is no eating or drinking in buses and trains. And littering entails heavy fines and jail. We are now seriously moving into a ‘No Plastic Bags’ society.Singapore is another such beautiful and law abiding country. Malaysia is almost getting there.

    I hope to see India get there soon. Swapna, glad you posted those photos, I hope many people will see this and and pay attention to how they behave in public.


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