Nearly half of Israelis admit to littering in the past year - study

Israel's litterbugs testified that the reason they littered was "not seeing a trash can nearby," or "not noticing" that they had done so, though they believe others likely do it "just for fun."

A young girl stands with collected trash sign reading SOS (photo credit: RICARDO GOMES/REUTERS)
A young girl stands with collected trash sign reading SOS
(photo credit: RICARDO GOMES/REUTERS)
Around 45% of Israelis admitted to throwing a piece of trash in nature at least once in the last year, according to a new study published on Monday by the Natural Resources and Environmental Research Center at the University of Haifa.
The study said that regarding themselves, Israel's litterbugs often testified that the reason they littered was "not seeing a trash can nearby," or "not noticing" that they had done so. Regarding other people, most testified that they believe others do so "just for fun."
"Most people do not tend to admit that they did something unacceptable and dumped waste, so it is likely that the percentage of dumping is even greater than this figure," said research student Naama Lev from the center, who led the study.
The study was based on Lev's thesis and directed by Prof. Ofira Ayalon from the Department of Natural Resource Management and Dr. Maya Negev from the School of Public Health at the University of Haifa.
During the study, the researchers examined the perceptions of 401 Israelis from all races, genders, religions, ages and regions regarding the dumping of personal waste at nature sites and parks.

The results of the study show that over 90% of the participants have visited a site in nature at least once or more in the past year. It also showed that participants also love seeing cleaner nature sites and place great importance (98.5% of the respondents) on the level of cleanliness of the site they visit.
Trash, which piles up mainly due to personal littering on streets, beaches, in parks and nature sites, increases the risk of many socio-economic and environmental problems, including aesthetic damage, soil and water pollution, damage to public health and increased spread of disease, damage to biodiversity, blockages in sewage systems and economic damage due to declining tourism.
The study also found that while litterbugs exist across all sectors of Israeli society, youths, ultra-Orthodox people, and residents of the Jerusalem area self-reported a higher frequency of littering compared to others.
The researchers also found that the most commonly reported type of trash which people reported seeing in nature are cigarette butts, with one of the participants saying he believes that "people think of them as biodegradable."
"This suggests that apparently, waste disposal behavior is influenced by many factors and that therefore, the ways of dealing with the phenomenon should also be different and varied," the researchers stated in the study. 
They added that according to the study, the move that the public believes would have the greatest impact in preventing the phenomenon would be issuing fines.
"Decision-makers, when attempting to deal with the phenomenon of littering and pollution at nature sites and parks, should take into account the characteristics of the phenomenon of littering in nature in Israel," the researchers said. 
"They must plan a diverse course of action, which meets the great diversity of opinions and behaviors which make up the Israeli public," they said. "Action in the established routes of enforcement, education and improving infrastructure according to these characteristics will allow for greater focus and accuracy, which will save resources and [provide] a cleaner nature. 
"There is a need to increase enforcement and the distribution of fines, especially on beaches and in the Sea of ​​Galilee, as well as open nature reserves, which are perceived as dirtier," the researchers concluded.