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Keep It Clean Newcastle: A Litter Pick Up Project

Updated on January 31, 2021
Stephanie Purser profile image

Founded the 'Keep It Clean Project' in 2015 and has collected and disposed of over 2000 bags of litter since.

A Need For Change

Taking a stroll with my dogs in my local area one morning, I was gob smacked at the state of the place. I'd grown up here and never noticed the amount of litter left behind after a big sporting event.

I was surrounded by rubbish and found it had brought my mood right down. I was angry at the mess that had been left behind and just plain sad that people weren't better than this.

I found a plastic bag amongst the trash and started filling it with the surrounding litter. When the bag was full, I picked up what I could otherwise and put it in the bin.

I took photos to show my friends on Facebook and before I knew it, my new hobby was established.

A Clean Up in Redhead, NSW 2016
A Clean Up in Redhead, NSW 2016

A Community Involvement Project

The more plastic bags I filled with litter and disposed of properly. The more of an impact I was having on other locals. People stopped and acknowledged that someone wanted better for their community. Passers by would praise me and thank me for what I was doing.

As my collections grew, I decided to make a platform where people could follow my clean ups and become involved. The Facebook page I created became the stage for which I would share the Keep It Clean Project.

Collections were almost daily and between 10 to 30 bags most days. I decided to open a campaign to receive donations as supporters had suggested. And pledged to pick up five bags of litter for every $10 donated.

People also donated their supermarket plastic bags. I went through them like they were going out of style and people seemed to save loads of them for me. And it was a great way of re-using them.

On March 6th, 2016 Keep It Clean Newcastle hosted it's first Clean Up Australia Day site. The team of 12 people retrieved 25 big bags of general waste and 10 bags of recycling. It was a wonderful demonstration of community spirit.

Changing Minds One Bag at a Time

Collections were a wonderful way to reduce the amount of litter in our recreation areas, parks and beaches but they had been serving a second purpose. People could see it!

Litter is one of those things people see so much of that they become desensitized to it. But when they see someone picking it up it's unusual and different so it does catch people's attention.

It inspires a new thought process. Whilst people might not get excited and start picking up litter like maniacs, they might become more proactive about making sure their rubbish makes it into the bin. That is if they don't make the assumption that you are completing some sort of community service sentence.

Young minds are especially important. Keep It Clean Newcastle spoke at Charlestown East Public School in 2016. After the visit, kids were seen picking up papers in the playground at lunch. And hopefully took the message home with them.

I hope the Keep It Clean Project continues to show people in society just how much one person can care and what they can accomplish by giving back.

Dangerous Litter

I know, dramatic right! Like a McDonald's cup will kill you in your sleep. But seriously, some litter poses a massive risk to people and animals.

Broken Glass is for obvious reasons not something you want hidden in the grass at your local kid's soccer field. If someone even sits down a glass bottle, chances are within a day, it will have transformed into a very serious hazard. And in my experience, broken glass is one of the hardest types of litter to remove. You almost never collect all of it.

Cigarette butts, not only are they quite gross they can cause fires. We all know this and yet so many people still drop their butts and fling them out of moving cars whilst still lit. Not to mention the horror that is the idea of your small child picking one of these yucky things up and putting it in their tiny mouths.

Soda Cans are not often thought of as being incredibly dangerous. As recyclable as they are, I have picked up hundred across many sporting ovals. However believe it or not, they are. See, a lot of groundskeepers and council workers use big lawn mowers that turn a harmless soda can into a twisted mess of sharp aluminum that can easily slice skin.

Plastic and food wrappers are also a big risk factor not just for the environment but our fury friends. Dogs have very strong senses of smell and will seek out food wrappers by their scent. If dogs eat plastic packaging they will have a potential foreign body obstruction.

Pipes and lighters don't necessarily go hand in hand. They can be found separately but are both bad news. Pipes are not typically dangerous unless made of glass but none the less most people wouldn't want their child playing with one. Let alone a lighter! I don't really need to explain why you don't want young ones picking these up on their walk to school.

Syringes are definitely my worst fear during clean ups and sadly are not uncommon. These little nasties can be found almost anywhere and have so many potential dangers associated with them.

I'm sure I haven't even began to cover the endless possibilities of risks posed by litter to our local community without even touching on environmental effects. If you can think of one I haven't covered or have experienced an injury associated with litter, please share it in the comments.

© 2017 Stephanie Purser


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