Rubbish!

February 23, 2010 at 5:03 am | Posted in Social Responsibility | 1 Comment
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I am disgusted by the amount of rubbish that’s thrown from passing cars in almost every part of Australia that I’ve lived in or visited. It doesn’t matter whether in town or country, city or outback, there are very few places that are rubbish free. Some places are much worse than others, and some people are much worse than others too.

Have you noticed all the fast food rubbish everywhere? The paper bags and wrappers, cardboard, plastic and foam cartons and drink cups that are strewn along the sides of the streets and roads? An inordinate number of them seem to originate from a popular take-away place that has well-known golden arches. Is there a message there somewhere? You even find trash strewn under cars, or placed beside where they were parked – left there when the diners drove off. Almost always, there are adequate bins a few feet away.

The glass and plastic bottles that gleam in the grass along the verges and in the brush are almost always from drinks based on either alcohol or caffeine. You can almost guarantee it. The same glass bottles are the ones you find smashed along public footpaths and parks, shopping centres and hotels. Someone has to clean them up. The cost adds to our taxes. Is there another message here? Is it only the taxpayers who care?

Calling on a sense of social responsibility doesn’t seem to work with many people. They seem to be proud tossers. So the rubbish collects, until crews in and around some towns and council areas pick it up and dispose of it. The rest of the country remains a tip.

I think a great source of labour for the clean-up gangs could be reasonably fit people on the dole. Work to clean up the place and they might not be such tossers. They might even feel they’ve earned something rather than having it handed to them.

There is also a scheme that has been proven to reduce the amount of rubbish tossed out. A five-cent refund on drink cans and bottles, extended a few years ago to cardboard cartons, has operated for over 20 years in South Australia. The initial cost of a drink is five cents more, but it hasn’t harmed sales. People buy as many drinks per capita as they do in other states. When I lived there for a number of years, the refund I received added up to a reasonable amount of pocket money, the saving an added bonus.

The roadsides in S.A. testify to the scheme’s success. In all areas, except very close to the borders with other states, they are relatively free of discarded drink containers. The habit of saving refundable containers to take to a recycler to reclaim the refund, instead of tossing them out any old where, seems to have extended to other areas too. You don’t see very much fast food or general rubbish lying about. Certainly nowhere near the amount you see in New South Wales and other parts of the country.

I cannot understand why other states won’t even trial this great refund scheme. Peter Garrett, Australia’s Federal Environment Minister, doesn’t want to introduce such a scheme nationally, either, saying it will disadvantage recyclers. What? Go to S.A., Mr Garrett.  Be open-minded, and see the difference the scheme makes.

© Linda Visman February 2010

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  1. In the US, deposit laws vary from state to state. Here in Iowa, we have a refundable deposit on aluminum cans and glass or plastic bottles. Not only does it keep the roadsides practically clutter-free, but several youth organisations fund activities with money earned from can and bottle collections.

    I’ve noticed a visible difference when traveling through states that don’t have a deposit law in place.

    This is a simple concept. I don’t understand why it isn’t adopted everywhere.


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