MOTHER of two, wife, former occupational therapist and soon to be swimming instructor Alison Lee firmly believes if you have time to complain about something then subsequently you have time to do something about it and so she did.
About a month ago she grabbed her gloves, some empty garbage bags and started picking up rubbish whenever the opportunity presented itself.
It does not matter if she is at the park with her two young sons or taking her dog for a walk, if Alison sees any rubbish lying around she is compelled to pick it up.
“It’s not rocket science picking up rubbish, you see it and you choose to pick it up or you choose to leave it.
“I am just doing it because it is important to me and if other people want to get involved that’s great,” she stated.
Just how important it is to her is detailed in the about me section of her blog titled ‘drowning in litter’:
“I live in a beautiful town. It has wonderful parks, biketracks and streets. As I look around though every single one of them is covered in a snow like blanket of McDonalds wrappers, soft drink cans and bottles and lolly and chocolate wrappers. I wonder why? I wonder whether one stay at home mum can make a difference in this. I guess time will tell.”
Time has told and Alison’s efforts appear to be indeed making a difference.
“In my little world there seems to be lots of people contacting me saying thats a really fabulous thing you are doing, then other people saying we would like to help and that sort of thing.
“A few of my friends are cursing me saying all they see now is rubbish everywhere and I say good get a bag and start picking it up then.”
The young mum said the response from the Singleton community has generally been positive but she was not sure how to react when a ute pulled up beside her one day when collecting rubbish.
To her relief it was a gentleman offering to take the bags of rubbish she had collected to a bulk bin at his work place.
“That was nice because it is the thing I like doing the least.
“The smell of cigarettes and other rubbish, even though it is in bags, still wafts through my car – I don’t have a ute.”
Unfortunately on some days she collects up to ten bags of rubbish but this depends on her location and the distance walked.
Besides picking up rubbish Alison has been busy expressing her concerns to the council and fast food companies in regard to the amount of rubbish strewn across local parks and along the streets of Singleton.
She has written to Singleton Council urging them to install metal bins at the two parks she frequents, one on White Avenue and one in Darlington.
Currently there are no bins at either of these locations.
“It won’t stop the problem but it won’t make it worse.”
“I have not heard anything back though,” she said in a disappointed tone.
Alison has also written to fast food giant McDonalds asking them if they have any evidence that their clean streets program is working as in her experience it is not.
She constantly finds herself picking up packaging from the products the retailer sells on the sides of the New England Highway from Bridgman Road to Maison Dieu and ironically it is stamped with the keep Australia beautiful logo.
She admits: “Yes, people should put it in the bin but the fact is they don’t so companies need to start looking at what goes out.”
“They choose how much packaging they are going to use, they must realise their customers are not going to put all of it in the bin, unless they don’t go outside a 200 metre radius of their store.”
Alison used the example of the many unopened packets of cutlery she finds on the ground that comes from fast food outlets such as Kentucky Fried Chicken.
“Do they really need to put them in every bag or could they just wait until people ask for them?”
“There is so much unnecessary packaging around these days,” she laments.
Again, just like when she wrote to the council, Alison has not received a response from McDonalds.
“My next thought is maybe to return it to them; put it in a bag and drop it off to Mc Donalds.”
“I am not sure if it is legal but I thought I would give it go,” she laughs.
In a more serious tone Alison talks about her worries about excess packaging, and excess in general, and how society has come to accept this as the norm, thus she tries to teach her two boys the importance of using less and recycling what they do use.
“We have a worm farm, a compost heap and I go to the op shop to buy things as a reward for the boys.
In the future she would like to see incentives introduced for individuals, like her, that choose to collect litter from parks and streets.
She has many ideas including free passes to the tip if you have collected a certain number of bags per month.
“I may become known as the crazy lady on the side of the road with all the garbage bags but if it encourages others to do the same then it’s worth it.”