n Japan, many snacks are readily available at the corner convenience stores. Buying “Pockys,” which are my favorite, and one or more other snacks is a nice way to begin a nature hike or a stroll through a historic village. The downside (along with increasing girth) is that trash receptacles are rarely found along the way! But, despite a dearth of receptacles, nature trails and streets are immaculate. It is difficult to find even one candy wrapper on the ground in the busiest city. How can this be? Easy. If there is no trash receptacle in sight, Japanese will simply put a wrapper in their pocket or bag to discard later. In contrast, the U.S. and Europe legislate fines for littering. Yet, highways, cities and the countryside are speckled with litter. In many other regions of the world the cities are filthy and wanton dumping is prevalent in the countryside. Mr. Russell Ellwanger, TowerJazz CEO & TPSCo Chairman Trash is a Reflection of Culture: Respect vs. Fear In Japan, at a very young age, children are introduced to Tao, “the Way.” Not in a religious fashion, simply as an understanding of respect for others, the workplace and the environment. A 4-year-old child begins a kindergarten school day by lining up his or her shoes in an orderly fashion outside the school room, because of course, no one would carry street dirt into a place of learning or into a home. Then they take the washcloth, an “oshibori” that is part of their uniform, and wipe off their desktop. The school day ends, as well, with wiping off the desktop. All parts of Japanese social culture are imbued with respect for society, the workplace and the environment. It becomes a cultural norm, the acceptable way of behavior, where there is no real need for laws or fines to enforce it. Laws and fines might to some degree curtail littering, but they cannot eliminate it. Cognizant law-abiding citizens will adhere. People who fear being caught and fined will also follow suit, but anyone who thinks it is not their problem, that they won’t get caught, or that a fine is more appealing than an alternative will still use the world as their trash receptacle. Introducing legislation and fines shifts the focus from a question of should and should not, care or care not, to a cost benefit analysis. Only a culture of respect can eliminate the habit. Behavioral change is only sustainable when the motivation grows into a cultural “DNA.”
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