Mark Bartlett and Angela Knight pull on their gloves and don their hi-vis vests, ready for another day of picking up other people’s garbage.
- Shocked at the level of rubbish in their neighbourhood, a Tasmanian couple started a clean up campaign
- They’ve collected thousands of cans and hundreds of shopping trolleys
- The campaign is lifting spirits and changing the perception of the low-income area
They traipse down a grassy dirt road running behind the waste transfer station in Brighton, near Hobart, with empty plastic bags in hand.
It is just one of many local spots they regularly find carloads of dumped rubbish.
Mr Bartlett moved back to the area five years ago and found illegal dumping in bush areas was a major problem.
He was most surprised by the number of trolleys being hauled over the railing of the Jordan River bridge.
“Every day walking over to and from the bridge I was looking down and seeing trolley after trolley after trolley, every day there’d be a new one,” he said.
It spurred him and his partner Ms Knight into action.
They started the Bridgewater and Gagebrook Clean Up Group on Facebook to encourage others to help create a cleaner community.
“Ever since then we’ve been out nearly every day cleaning up something,” he said.
The couple go to dumping hotspots and bag up the rubbish.
They then ask the Brighton Council to come and pick up the waste for it to be disposed of properly.
Community support keeps them going
The never-ending nature of the problem occasionally makes them feel like giving up.
“You get to the point where you say, ‘I just cant do it anymore’,” Mr Bartlett said.
“But we have got a lot of amazing people on our Facebook page and they say ‘no worries, we’ll give you a hand’ and we’re back at it again.
“And we keep on doing it until people can see why we’re doing it.”
It is that community spirit that Ms Knight and Mr Bartlett hope will help to clean up people’s perception of the disadvantaged area.
“For a long time we’ve had a bad stigma put up against the people that live here,” Mr Bartlett said.
“I think over the last five years people are starting to see that, so it’s been really good.”
End of lease dumping a big problem
Mr Bartlett and Ms Knight have picked up 70,000 cans and bottles over the past five years.
They often find dumped items that could have been recycled or reused.
“We’ll find boxes of beer bottles or cans,” Ms Knight said.
“Today we went out and found household rubbish, kids’ toys, shoes.”
The dumps often appear to be the result of end-of-lease cleans, with discarded mail often revealing where the rubbish has come from.
“Most of the stuff we are finding when it’s a lease dump like that are from places out of area, not from Bridgewater, Gagebrook, Brighton or Old Beach,” Mr Bartlett said.
“The last one I think was from Glenorchy, and we’ve seen a few from Sandy Bay.
Mr Bartlett suggested neighbours should pitch in together to take a load of rubbish to the tip if the cost is deterring them from disposing of the waste properly.
“They’ve got to realise, what are we doing to the environment? The cost is greater than a few dollars at the tip,” he said.
Over the past few years, the local supermarkets have twice paid contractors to pull trolleys from the river.
“They’d just go fishing for them and pull them up from the bridge,” Mr Bartlett said.
“The first time was about 150 they pulled out and the second clean-up would have been about 130 to 140 trolleys.”
‘Body’ in tarp scare
Ms Knight said they have had some startling finds over the years.
“We did a clean-up down near the river and there was a tarp there and I picked it up to see what was in it,” she said.
“And I thought it was brown hair and I’ve just gone ‘oh my god, it’s a body’, bolted up the hill and Mark’s come and had a look.
“Nah, it was a sheep.”
The couple want to see more education about how to properly dispose of waste and people do more to reduce consumption.
“Think about rubbish reduction, think about what you’re contributing to the whole problem,” she said.
“Recycle it, reuse it, don’t create so much rubbish to start with, think about what’s going to happen to it when you’re finished with it because there’s just too much going into landfill.”