I fully blame my Year 6 teacher for my obsession with litter and waste. Mr Thaw was one of those teachers who was terrifying if you came across him on the playground – very stern and not willing to accept an iota of nonsense. But once you were in the sacred realm of his classroom, he expanded in character to become the best school teacher I ever had. His vision for us was wide – we started the day by discussing current affairs. He listened to us and taught us to listen to each other. One issue that came up after a few months was the dirty playground, often littered with brown paper or plastic lunch bags, apple cores, and straws (this was in the olden days before the uber packaging of every food product – little did we know how clean our playground looked then compared to those of today! But I digress….) After a bit of discussion, Mr Thaw asked us what WE were going to do about the dirty playground. Thus was born STOP (Student Team On Protection). Being a member of this student-led group basically involved going around at recess and telling other (younger) students to pick up their rubbish, but it worked on many levels. The playground was cleaner, we learned leadership skills and won a Principal’s Award, and my lifelong passion for reducing litter and waste was born.
Over the years, however, I have found that this passion has not always been shared by many – or even understood. Years ago I started carrying my own cup and had countless arguments with café owners and flight attendants about the legality of them using my cup instead of a disposable, with many refusing point blank. My partner and sons have long been terrorised into hiding or excessively excusing plastic bags if they bring them home, and friends have been known to cross the street if they are carrying a plastic bag and they see me coming. So imagine my delight when, in March of 2017, a few keen Bellingen locals got together to form “Waste Not Bello”, with the goal of “weaning our small town off single-use plastics”.
My soul sisters and brothers! Somewhere where I can talk about my distress at not knowing whether or not the plastic cracker trays can go in the recycling bin or not! Waste Not has now been going for more than a year. We have had members come and go, we have had meetings and run workshops and campaigns, and we have had some major wins in our little town. Recently we hit a definite high point when we succeeded in convincing/cajoling/bullying 27 out of 28 venues in town into participating in a “Plastic Straw Free” festival for the annual Bello Winter Music festival (more on that at a later date). This success actually inspired the birth of this blog – because Bellingen is a beautiful bubble, and because it feels like we need to share this adventure of trying to get rid of single-use plastic with a much larger audience. To that end, this blog will share our “wanderings and wonderings in a world of waste” – and the positive steps that have been taken as a result – with the big wide world. Stay tuned!