This week I spent some time picking up litter in my community and I found myself questioning the mentality of those who litter. Why does one individual think nothing of tossing a bottle out their car window on the drive home while others chase a receipt that’s caught the wind and blown from their trolley through a busy car park so as not contribute to rubbish lying round?
I don’t have any answers. The general consensus seems to be that laziness and carelessness has bred a culture of habitual littering. There are other excuses offered, such as a lack of rubbish bins but I’m not buying that. You just hold on to your rubbish to you find an appropriate receptacle. It’s not that hard. According to the inside of my car I’ve been searching for an appropriate receptacle for some time now!
Research has also shown there is a correlation between the presence of litter in an area and more people adding to the pile in that spot. When someone sees litter already accumulated, they assume that nobody must care or it’s okay to dump there. There is an aspect of anonymity to it as well. If your litter is the only piece is in an area it is glaringly obvious. Drop a chip packet in an already littered site and well, that could be anyone’s!
Do litterers just assume someone else will pick up the rubbish they toss aside? Do they not realise what actually happens when their litter is blown into a storm water drain and ends up in the ocean?
Trying to pick up old plastic bags and chip packets was particularly difficult, as they had already started to degrade, literally falling apart and blowing off my tongs into a dozen pieces! These pieces break down even further once they hit the ocean, some thinner than a human hair and get ingested by our marine animals.
A recent study has found that this contamination may also be affecting humans, with the average person ingesting approximately five grams of microplastics per week – the equivalent of snacking on a credit card!
If you travelled along Neaves Road in the last few weeks you would have spotted what looked like a wild mattress breeding program! 13 discarded mattresses appeared on the roadside in one day and then more popped up as the week continued. In an area less than a 15 minute drive from a recycling centre. Who takes the time to load up a small truck with mattress to dump them, but doesn’t take the time to spend five minutes Googling “free used mattress collection”? Most shires seem to have a policy of collecting up to three mattresses a year on call for residents, charities will collect mattress in good condition for free and there are two services I found that that collects them on demand for a fee – www.mattressremoval.com.au – and Soft Landing recycling program.
Litter is a serious environmental issue. Litter can cause bushfires and physical injury to people and wildlife. Litter encourages the spread of pest species and disease, pollutes our waterways and costs millions of dollars each year to clean up. In the words of the Keep Australia Beautiful Council – ‘Bin it – you know it’s the right thing to do’.