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Going to the source to lessen the litter

MOST rubbish entering the bay comes from car parks and the street. So, to reduce the amount of rubbish finding its way onto the foreshore and into the water meant cleaning up street litter – especially outside shops and supermarkets.

And that’s a task Rye resident Josie Jones excelled in: so much so that the graphic designer was last week awarded the Litter Prevention prize in the Keep Victoria Beautiful 2017 Tidy Towns – Sustainable Communities Awards.

The presentation was made at Horsham, in the Wimmera, on Saturday 25 November.

The Victorian Tidy Towns program, first run in 1983, sets out to recognise and applaud the hard work of people and groups, especially in rural communities, and to share these best practices and ideas.

This year’s awards were supported by Awards Online and Coopers Brewery.

Victorian Tidy Towns judge Terry O’Brien said: “In April this year, Josephine Jones undertook an incredible challenge. She collected nearly four tonnes of rubbish from the foreshore, referencing the material and identifying it as coming from the local supermarket car park.

“Josephine convinced the supermarket to address this problem through cleaning schedules and litter prevention initiatives, such as recycle bins.”

Keep Victoria Beautiful CEO Sabina Wills said: “The success of this project increased the protection of the local marine environment. It empowered the local community to set high standards to prevent and reduce litter in their community.”

Ms Jones, who won the KVB Tidy Towns: Dame Phyllis Frost Award in 2016 for her “outstanding commitment to her work in sustainability”, said she used the award to approach Woolworth’s Rye supermarket management to “be part of the solution” in reducing car park litter.

“[Litter] used to be a blame game but, after I went back to them for the fourth time, to their credit, Woolworth’s took the initiative,” she said.

Using the nickname “The one-tonne mermaid”, which she received for collecting 4.2 tonnes of litter at Rye after weekly beach clean-ups, Ms Jones says she is trying to reinvent the sentiment of the Life Be In It and Keep Australia Beautiful campaigns.

This thinking led her to act on the supermarket car park which she described as a disgrace. “There were hundreds of cigarette butts, papers and rubbish everywhere,” she said.

“I got the Scouts, staff at the supermarket and members of the community and I asked the shire to be transparent with maps to see who was littering. We managed to more than halve the amount of litter ending up on the foreshore.”

The self-employed mother of a 13-year-old is unabashed in urging the community to back her stance: “We need people to support us and we want to inspire the community.”

Part of the urge to inspire relates to making us think – and act: “If you are down the beach and the bins are full then take your extra rubbish home,” she said.

“Don’t just leave rubbish on the ground where it will eventually be blown into the water.

“It takes courage to think outside the square. If we don’t clean up our foreshore areas our kids will not experience it as we did.

“We have a beautiful country and it deserves to be respected.”

First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 5 December 2017 STORY BY Stephen Taylor

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