Rubbish rapping: why don’t we do litter pick-ups in our streets?
Our Technical Advisor Andrea Topp spent a recent Saturday picking up rubbish from her neighbourhood. Just half an hour collecting in her street netted more than 50 kgs of rubbish – which could have been recycled, composted, or at the very least disposed of responsibly. Her experience started her thinking about the psychology of cleaning up, and how we can all start closer to home.
As a small nation we are surrounded by the sea. So, it makes sense that we have a strong sense of kaitiakitanga (guardianship) over our oceans – our proximity makes us feel responsible for its wellbeing.
As one form of kaitiakitanga, and as awareness of plastic pollution has grown, groups of Kiwis have flocked to the coastline to collect rubbish in the hope of saving our beloved marine environment from plastic debris.
Confronted by a beach littered with rubbish, we often ask ourselves where it’s all coming from. How do random bits of household rubbish, clothing or shoes wind up on our sands?
A common misconception is that it comes from litter bugs on the beach itself - but the majority of litter actually comes from drains in our cities and neighbourhoods that flow out to the sea.
About a month ago, Auckland experienced strong winds which snapped trees in half and blew rubbish bins across our streets. As locals cleared away the mess of the trees and up-righted their bins, one thing remained… the waste.
I left the rubbish for a couple of weeks, assuming house owners would see the mess in front of their homes and clean it up. When that didn’t happen, I decided to take matters into my own hands and clean up my street, with plans to move to adjacent roads and parks later in the day.
In half an hour I had picked up 50 kg of rubbish on my road alone, which came as a huge shock. As we sorted through the rubbish we collected, something my mother said really resonated with me.
“If everyone did their part and cleaned up their little piece of land”, she said, “this wouldn’t end up on our streets or our beaches”.
This could not be truer, and so I’ve taken a new pledge. Instead of just talking about how bad plastic pollution is for our environment, I will continue to clean up all forms of rubbish off the streets of Howick, challenging all those that see me to play their part.