Reasons for littering: Social constructions from lower income communities in South Africa




littering, South Africa, perceptions, reasons, inequalities


Littering has been defined as the careless and improper disposal of small amounts of waste that results in unwanted and unnatural elements remaining in the environment. People tend to blame external factors for their own littering. A person seldom refers to themselves as being the litterer but will rather place the blame on insufficient infrastructure, such as lack of bins, or on other persons. When referring to other people, they identify problematic behaviour and personal traits such as ignorance, naivety, need for convenience, laziness and inattentiveness as causes of littering. This study addressed the gap in the literature on the socially constructed perceptions people hold about reasons for littering in the South African context, as subjectively perceived reasons for littering may correspond with actual causes and could point towards options for tackling the littering problem. Five lower socio-economic areas in South Africa – particularly those that experience major infrastructural challenges – were included in the study. Qualitative semi-structured interviews were held with 322 residents from the respective areas. The data were thematically analysed and the results from the areas compared with each other. The cross-case analysis confirmed that littering is contingent on contextual effects, and unique reasons for littering in the South African context were mentioned. The research reported on in this study highlights that we have only thematically ‘identified’ or named the socially constructed perceptions about the reasons for littering by the participants. The importance of creating platforms and processes for dialogues to deepen our understanding of people’s socially constructed perceptions and subsequent behaviour, is of critical importance.


  • This study presents subjective or self-reported perceptions of people living in lower socio-economic areas on the reasons for littering and dumping.
  • These perceptions about reasons for littering then provide directions for possible interventions to manage and curb littering in the South African context.


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How to Cite

Schenck, C., Grobler, L., Blaauw, D., & Nell, C. M. (2022). Reasons for littering: Social constructions from lower income communities in South Africa. South African Journal of Science.



Waste as a Resource Research Article