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Regional News Article

Conservation Comment on Recycling, Littering and Garden Waste
Aug 13, 2004
Author: Colin Ogle, as published in the Chronicle.

"Wanganui - well worth the journey". But surely not to see our city's litter? Like graffiti and dog droppings in public places, litter offends the eye and sometimes the nose. We've got a brand new recycling depot (in a park-like setting) but it could be adding to the litter problem and the volume of waste. The depot gives us the options of taking our recyclables there, or putting them out in our weekly rubbish pick-up, or taking them to one of the pay-as-you-go transfer stations, or dumping them in some handy place. Since the abandoning of kerb-side collection of some recyclables, our local walkway looks like the last is a popular option for some Wanganui residents. As well as recyclable cans and glass bottles (many broken), the most common items that my wife and I collect along our walkway every few days include clearly labelled packaging from take-away foods. Of course the recycling depot is being used, but by what proportion of households? How does this compare with the numbers who used to use the free pick-up of recyclables? Even for those with vehicles, high fuel costs and the inconvenience must tempt many to opt for the weekly rubbish bag or littering or illegal dumping instead. Setting aside all the other reasons for recycling for the meantime, reducing our city's volume of waste is a laudable aim of recycling. But is it working?

Some might dismiss those who litter our city's streets, parks and walkways as irresponsible, immature, uncaring youths. We responsible, mature, caring adults don't spoil our environment. Or do we? Who tips unwanted solvents, oil or other chemicals down the drain or gutter, from where they pollute the river. Who walks their dog and doesn't pick up their dog's poo? And which contractors and home gardeners throw garden waste across the road or over the fence into a vacant section or 'waste' council land? In autumn, some affluent homeowners use motor-powered (noisy!) blowers to sweep all the leaves from their section into the street 'because the Council picks up the leaves'. Not a problem because green waste rots? Recently at a Council planning committee hearing I used an example of the spread of Madeira vine in the city. This strangling weed spreads only by tubers. It does not set seed in New Zealand, meaning we can't blame birds or wind for its spread. Around Wanganui, almost every site with Madeira vine is on the downhill side of a road. There's no prize for guessing how it got there. Wandering willie (Tradescantia), tuberous oxalis, aluminium plant (Galeobdolon), Cape honeysuckle and tuber ladder fern are some others that are spread solely from dumped rubbish. Recycling starts at home. A change in attitude to litter and recycling by all of us would actually cost very little. For residents, Wanganui would become a more pleasant place to live. For visitors, it might be more worthy of its claim to be 'well worth the journey'.