As cities strive to find new ways to clean up and reduce the amount of litter in the area, understanding the mentality of humans can help. There are so many ways to keep waste from piling up on the ground, in the soil and sediment and in the water. For hazardous and toxic waste, companies like Sevenson Environmental will cleanup the mess, but for garbage, many cities are debating whether the issue should be dealt with by trash pickup services or residents.
You can contribute by using resources like Earth 911 or attending sustainability meetings at your local community center or town hall. Garbage collection will only take place if individuals are willing to work with the system instead of littering and expecting an employee to clean up the garbage.
Experimental Trash Tests
Humans often follow the examples of those living around them, which leads to serious problems regarding littering and throwing trash on the ground. Secondary remediation services like Sevenson can only do so much in terms of cleaning toxic messes. Conducting experiments can produce surprising results that illustrate the way humans react to changes in their garbage collection services.
According to Robert Dur and Ben Vollaard of the Tinbergen Institute, experiments in changing collection services and policies have yielded some expected and unexpected results. The experiment reduced collection services from a daily task to a twice-weekly task. As the researchers expected, litter buildup became a problem in the area.
The problem with cleaning the litter and collecting it around the city was that many individuals expected others to clean their messes. When the service was reduced, the litter built up and the bad example of throwing trash remained. The habit of littering and expecting workers to clean up instead of throwing the trash in a designated garbage can resulted in more litter between collections.
Unexpectedly, the researchers running the experiment also noticed that eventually some individuals in the area started cleaning up the litter and throwing away personal trash in the appropriate designated bins.
The Herd Mentality
The herd mentality, or mob mentality, is the idea that humans will follow the example of others and behave in a different manner when they are exposed to certain behaviors, according to PsychCentral.com. When it comes to littering, the findings of experiments show that men, women and children will litter more often in environments that already have garbage.
Many individuals tend to follow the crowd. People litter in more littered areas, according to Freakonomics. Areas that reduce collection services will see a significant increase in the amount of litter.
Potential Clean-Up Solutions
The solution to manage the buildup of trash in certain locations seems to have a problem. Making collection services available daily has the risk of free-riders who are not personally responsible.
The other solution is reducing the services and encouraging more personal responsibility. Individuals who properly manage their trash will become the example that reduces litter and allows better services.
Ultimately, the best solution is likely a middle-ground. By having a reasonable schedule of regular services to manage trash, it is possible to encourage better responsibility while maintaining certain levels of cleanliness.
By understanding the herd mentality and working around the situation, cities are able to reduce the amount of trash and encourage better responsibility among the general population. As long as one does their part in picking up after themselves, we should have clean, beautiful looking cities!
Brian is a dedicated single dad, a passionate environmentalist and energy conservation activist. He believes that knowledge is the key to better living and that’s why he shares information with his readers every week.