The Malta Independent 3 February 2023, Friday
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TMID Editorial: Taking a lesson from Japan

Wednesday, 30 November 2022, 09:44 Last update: about 3 months ago

Japan will probably not win the World Cup, but their fans have already lifted the trophy as the cleanest and most civic-minded.

Footage of Japanese fans bagging garbage in the stadium after a match – irrespective of the result – is always surprising to non-Japanese.

This behaviour is being highlighted by both the traditional and social media, but it is nothing unusual for the Japanese or people who know their culture.


And it’s not only the fans who behave in this way. Japanese players are known to clean up the dressing room after using it, and leave thank you notes too.

They are simply doing what most people in Japan do – on the streets, at work, and in any public place. Their homes, too.

A spokeswoman for the Japanese Football Association said it's supplying 8,000 trash bags to help fans pick up after matches with “thank you” messages on the outside written in Arabic, Japanese, and English.

Tokyo has few public trash receptacles. This keeps the streets cleaner, saves municipalities the costs of emptying trash cans, and keeps away vermin. You’re always supposed to take your trash home in Japan, because there are no trash cans on the street.

Here, in Malta, we do things quite differently.

Most of us keep their homes spick and span, but then the mentality is that what is outside the front door does not belong to us. So we tend to behave erratically here, with very few of us behaving appropriately.

Each time we have windy days – as we did the last weekend – it is clear to see what a dirty country we live in. The volume of trash that is carried away by the gusts of wind and the torrential rain is enormous.

Bits of paper, cigarette packets and butts, tissues, plastic bags, empty wrappers – you name it, you see it floating down or flying in the wind along with the remnants of nature such as falling leaves which are never cleaned up.

When a miracle happens and you see someone doing some cleaning up, it often happens that the job is not completed – there have been several occasions when weeds are removed but are left on the ground for someone else to pick up; only it takes too long for this to happen and the weeds are blows away.

As for trash receptacles, they have multiplied in certain areas but they are certainly not enough to keep up with the demand. And how many times have we seen them overflowing just because people continue to try to dump their unwanted waste even though this is not physically possible? Not to mention that in places where there are waste separation receptacles these end up being turned into mini dumping sites.

Let’s take a lesson from Japan. And it is never too late to start. Maybe our future generations will be better than us on these terms if they start to learn from a young age.

In Japan, students clean their classroom, instilling in them the responsibility for cleanliness in the space they use. When they grow up, they do not mind that they are asked to spruce up the offices where they work.

We doubt that we will ever get to this point, but we should all do our bit to keep the country clean.


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