There are probably better ways to spend your Saturday morning than picking up other people’s rubbish. But this Sydney-based initiative (and Bank Australia customer) is making it worth your while. How? By turning the litter you collect into currency.
Seaside Scavenge has been running waste education events since 2015. Along with cleaning up local beaches, parks and lakes, the market-style events also offer live music, stalls, workshops and talks from local community and environmental groups.
“We’re using positive, fun, solutions-based approaches to engage a wider audience on waterway pollution,” explains Seaside Scavenge founder Anna Jane Linke. “The solutions to these problems are around behaviour change, and adopting circular economies for textile, plastic and organic waste streams.”
Seaside Scavenge events are usually held on a Saturday or Sunday morning. After an official opening by the mayor and a smoking ceremony, performed by local Indigenous Elders, participants register, get their rubbish bag and some gloves, and get to work cleaning up. After filling their bag with as much rubbish as they can find, participants return their haul to a sorting station, where waste is meticulously counted and catalogued, and sent to the Australian Marine Debris database. Meanwhile, participants receive a token for every 10 pieces of rubbish collected, which they can then use to buy things at stalls and attend workshops and talks.
The clean-up events are completely off-grid; a bike generator is used to power everything on site. Local businesses donate prizes, like yoga vouchers and surf lessons, to the people who collect the most butts, the most litter or the weirdest item.
“There’s a lot of bizarre things that you wouldn’t expect to find along the coast,” Anna Jane says. “We’ve found golf clubs, a vacuum cleaner, even false teeth!”
The aim of the events is to highlight that litter has a value and reframe people’s understanding of waste. “Everything we use, even at the end of its life, still has a value,” explains Anna Jane. “But it’s on the individual consumer to make sure it ends up in the right place.”
Part of this rethinking involves the idea of a circular economy. For individuals, that means reusing or repairing the products and materials you own to ensure they last longer, while businesses might look into redesigning their products and systems so there’s less waste at the end of a product’s life.
“We’re trying to showcase a loop where litter is turned into something you can use for something else,” Anna Jane says. “It’s about giving products a second lease of life so they don’t end up in landfill.”
The Seaside Scavenge team also run other waste education events:
- Spring into Scavenge is a 12-week environmental leadership program that gives participants from across Australia the skills and support they need to run their own Scavenge events.
- Looped Festival, Australia’s first public-facing circular economy event, aims to connect individuals with brands who are providing circular solutions for textiles, plastics and organic waste streams.
“The term ‘circular economy’ can get a bit caught up in jargon, so it’s important the consumer understands what it means,” Anna Jane explains. “Our last festival, held in November 2020, was a really curated experience that took people through the principles of what a circular economy is all about.”
Right now, Anna Jane and the team are keen to grow their network of waste warriors, whether that’s getting involved in upcoming programs and events or pitching new ideas and collaborations.
“We’re always looking to bring on new ideas to help fast track our mission of creating a world where nothing goes to waste.”
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