There are several reasons I am grateful for growing up in South Australia. Not least, because I grew up with Keep South Australia Beautiful or KESAB, Tidy Towns and 10c container deposits. Having lived in the eastern states metropolises of Sydney then Melbourne I was always rather proud of my litter-averse upbringing while observing the cesspits that are the waterways and drains of these cities. However my recent walks through the Belair National Park have reminded me that keeping South Australia Beautiful requires constant vigilance, if the natural environment is not to descend into rubbish-saturated neglect.
On my 2016 Christmas visit, I wrote of my enchantment with the beautiful park of my youth and re-discovering it along the Lorikeet Loop Walk and Valley Loop Hike. This season, I’ve again indulged in my morning ritual, traversing the rises and gullies of this wonderful public park. However this time, the walks were reminding me more of the homes I left back east, where it is normal to walk for 5 minutes and find several depositable containers, cigarette butts and miscellaneous discarded wrappers making the streets more closely resemble Smokey Mountain of Manila than the famed Tidy Towns. Don’t get me started on the Merri Creek or the Cooks River!
After a couple of days of my usual route, I had spied several items including deposit containers, and noted an intention to bring a bag to collect them. The next day, I discovered the ‘gift’ of a carefully-folded bread bag within my first 10 minutes of walking. Armed with my receptacle, I had even more reason for collecting the rubbish on the way.
First it was mostly tissues and wipes, then later I even found coffee cups and gelato spoons. I even perched on the side of a hill, holding onto a tree to pluck coffee cups and slushi spoons with Inspector Gadget arms (ie. a stick). Despite the dangling 20c prize, I had to leave the long-neck beer bottle and the soft-drink can – retrieving them might have seen me slip arse over tit and end up at the bottom of the hill. By the time I finished my hour something walk, I’d filled the bread bag, and when I returned home, I assembled the booty to take stock of what people discard along paths in National Parks.
So the song I had going in my head this year, did not feature partridges, nor kangaroos, but rubbish.
On my walk in Belair Park, some kind folks left for me:
7 plastic containers
6 bits of paper
5 baby wipes
4 calling cards
2 dog poo bags
and a neatly folded bread bag
I think the park needs to put up a sign to remind people that tissues and baby wipes have plastic in them and take a long time to break down and to take care to take these products with them when they leave the park. Do baby wipes EVER break down? And anyway, what’s wrong with a flannel!
A note from the Kleenex site – “Kleenex® Tissue is made with biodegradable cellulose fibers. Because the tissue is made with an additive to make it strong, it will not break down as rapidly as bathroom tissue. Therefore, we suggest you discard Kleenex® Tissue in the trash”. ie. this ‘additive’ is probably plastic!
From the Huggies baby wipes site “Coform is made by combining microscopic and continuous plastic fibres with wood pulp (cellulose) fibres”. Just what we need, more microscopic plastic fibres in the environment!!
I agree with the park’s refusal to provide bins, because they attract more rubbish than they clean up, and really it is our personal responsibility to take our rubbish with us.
Come on SA, lift your game! Constant vigilance, remember! Keep South Australia Beautiful. Sure, it takes a little extra effort to take rubbish with you, but having lived in places where people just don’t care, I know that our stunning and precious SA environment is worth looking after.
Just for interest, here is the full list of items:
plastic spoon/fork handle
plastic tree tag
Safcol tuna tin
pink plastic tree tie
plastic coffee lid
2 intact plastic dog poo bags
1 disintegrating plastic dog poo bag
part of a cup
plastic yoghurt container
plastic bubble-tea lid
plastic gelato spoon
part plastic cup
plastic sandwich wrap
6 bits of paper
Hubba Bubba bubblegum wrapper
5 baby wipes
Coles white bread bag