WHILE Christmas is a time to celebrate and relax with family and friends, it can be marred by the fact that our fun and festivities often leave an eyesore on the landscape around us.
Shopping centres and retail sites become dumping grounds for cigarette butts, drink containers, fast food packets and other rubbish with the surge in Christmas shoppers.
Likewise, a rise in outdoor gatherings over the hot holiday period leaves beaches, parks and gardens littered with the rubbish of merry-makers.
Shoppers drop an average of 184 items of litter per 1000square metres outside shopping centres and retail sites around the country, according to the Keep Australia Beautiful National Litter Index 2013-14 and this pile of rubbish gets bigger over the Christmas holiday period.
Queensland spenders are the worst for littering, dumping 298 items per 1000square metres while Victorians are the best (128). NSW comes second for cleanliness at shopping centres and retail sites, but I don’t see the dumping of 133 pieces of rubbish per 1000square metres as something to celebrate.
Rather, as we head into one of the biggest shopping periods of the year with the post-Christmas sales, I’m hoping these figures serve as a wake-up call for all Australians to clean up their act.
Some anecdotal research has found that it’s when we are away from home or out of our regular routines that we allow our standards to slip, such as shopping at a different centre where you are unfamiliar with the location of rubbish bins or being caught up in a last-minute, stressful gift-buying rush. Either way, you wouldn’t do this in your own home so don’t do it anywhere else.
There’s also an expectation by many people who hold barbecues and picnics in parks and at beaches that someone else, such as a local council worker, will come along and clean up any mess left behind.
If there are no bins where you’re picnicking, then take your rubbish home and dispose of it responsibly rather than allowing the wind or animals to spread it everywhere.
None of these excuses justify being a litterbug. Neither is ignorance. I’m often surprised by the number of well-meaning Australians who simply don’t know how to recycle properly, even though kerbside recycling collection services have been around since the 1980s.
With the increase in packaging from food and gift purchases, Christmas is a great time of year to remind ourselves how to dispose of litter properly and responsibly. For instance, always put your bottles and cans into the recycle bin empty and loose rather than bagged or boxed. Mixing plastic or cardboard with glass makes recycling more difficult and in some cases impossible, especially when it comes to plastic bags.
Don’t throw batteries into your domestic bins. These can contaminate recycling streams and become dangerous to handle; they should be disposed of through individual collection systems such as those offered at shops like Aldi supermarkets.
Likewise, recycle your old electronics if you get new gadgets for Christmas. You can do this by finding a special e-waste collector at your local council or through recyclingnearyou.com.au. If it’s a mobile phone then Mobile Muster collection points are at all phone retailers and many more locations.
When it comes to Christmas-specific items, remember that some are not recyclable, such as cellophane, tinsel, broken glasses and plates. These need to go into your regular rubbish bin. Christmas wrapping and cards can be recycled through the kerbside bins.
Think about composting your leftover Christmas fruit and vegie peelings and wrapping cooking oil in a newspaper and disposing in the bin rather than pouring down the sink.
Lastly, be a good neighbourhood this Christmas and freeze your prawn scraps until the next rubbish collection so you’re not creating olfactory pollution.
Let’s spread cheer and goodwill this Christmas, not rubbish.
Peter McLean is the chief executive officer of Keep