Bondi Locals Take Litter Problem Into Own Hands (Literally)
Whether you believe in evolution or think God made the world in six days (chucking a sickie on the seventh like a good Aussie), I think we can all agree that somehow humans were miraculously given an amazing planet to call home. And, in the years since we came to be, we have slowly but surely proceeded to fudge that planet up.
Humans, it seems, are innately selfish beings, many of whom are unable to fathom the effect their actions have on other living things. Or, even worse, just don’t really care. We’ve all been guilty of mindlessly consuming single-use plastic at one point or another without any real knowledge of the damage it is causing (ban the bloody bags, I beg of you!).
Ignorance is indeed bliss, so I can kind of forgive the uneducated for not making the best choices. Choosing to throw your garbage on the floor, however, is as inexcusable as Janet Jackson’s nipple piercing – it’s not pretty, we don’t need to see it, and the harm caused by exposure to it can last forever.
Luckily, there are decent humans left in the world and many of those live in the Eastern Suburbs, giving up their own time to rid our streets of litter. In other words, they spend their Sundays picking up after inconsiderate cretins who would rather pollute the streets and oceans with crap than find the nearest bin.
Meet Michael Harding, a 30 year-old personal trainer and plumber living in Bondi. Fed up with the state of our streets, he started a ‘Bagging Up Bondi’ Facebook Group. Every week, he sends a message to the group noting a time and place to meet. Providing garbage bags and gloves at his own expense, he then sends groups off to designated areas for an hour or so of collecting rubbish. During the short time Mr Harding has been organising these events, he’s found used condoms, needles, hundreds of Messina cups and thousands of cigarette butts, to name but a few.
Mr Harding believes our biggest problem is the ignorance people have towards littering.
“Flicking a cigarette butt doesn’t seem like much, but when you find a few hundred in an hour, you realise how detrimental it is to our planet,” Mr Harding explained to The Beast.
“They don’t break down; they absorb into our soils and water systems. It blows my mind how bad the situation is.”
Michael Harding is not alone in his concerns. Several other groups exist, including ‘Responsible Runners’, which started as a small group of runners picking up rubbish on Bondi Beach in 2012 and now has 15 groups scattered across Australia. Working alongside the Australian Marine Debris Initiative, they meet once a month to clean up our beaches while (sometimes) exercising and (always) socialising.
“There are so many gross things we have found, it’s hard to choose the worst!” Eva Kiss, Creative Director at Responsible Runners, told The Beast.
“Syringes, big broken shards of glass, condoms, leaking glow sticks, fishing hooks, the list goes on. But if I had to name my biggest enemy, it has to be cigarette butts – the most littered and toxic item by far.”
To give you a short science lesson, the chemicals found in one cigarette butt can contaminate approximately 7.5 litres of water. Now think about how often people flick their butts into the drains that lead to our oceans. We’re essentially poisoning the waves we (and marine life) swim in.
According to NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton, The NSW Government will spend over $30 million over the next four years to help stop littering through a local Litter Prevention Program.
“So far over 150 local programs have been funded, including the purchase of an on-street bin cleaner, more rubbish and cigarette butt bins, better enforcement and litter reduction education campaigns,” she told The Beast.
So what next? We could wait for our government and authorities to eventually clean up our mess, or we could literally take matters into our own hands. Ultimately, until we stop causing the problem in the first place, then the problem will always exist. Humans have the power to stop littering, it’s actually quite easy – don’t be a douche, don’t litter, done!
But until the day where no thoughtless heathens are left in existence, you can do your part by searching for ‘Bagging Up Bondi’ or ‘Responsible Runners (Bondi Beach)’ on Facebook and attending a clean-up day. This planet’s been quite good to us all in all; let’s return the favour, hey?