If you’re ever at Bell Street Mall in Heidelberg West at lunchtime, you’ll see loads of TAFE students hanging around. If you stick around long enough, you’ll see them leaving after lunch and – hopefully – putting their lunch rubbish in the bin as they go.
It wasn’t always this way.
This was one of several problem zones for heavy littering and dumping in and around the mall.
What you won’t see at the mall is all the work going on behind the scenes – TAFE students auditing mall litter and testing water quality at Darebin Creek just behind the mall, learning about the repercussions of littering and dumping, reworking clothes from op shops and making artwork out of rubbish to help them see items as something to be reused and not just thrown away.
And this is just the tip of the (Heidelberg) iceberg.
Thanks to a Local Litter Grant from Sustainability Victoria, Banyule City Council was able to bring TAFE students together with other mall users on a project to clean up the mall.
“We wanted to work together with all the people involved or affected by littering at the mall to see if we would get a more lasting result,” said Margaret Morgan, the Council’s Waste Education Coordinator.
“Our litter action team (the Local Litter Alliance) gave the project the momentum it needed”.
Darebin Creek Management Committee got involved, teaching local primary school (St Pius X) and TAFE students about waste avoidance and why they shouldn’t litter.
Students at St Pius X working on anti-litter slogans
The primary school now has a video to show future students and a video is in the works to show new TAFE students as part of their induction. Given the regular turnover of TAFE students, anti-litter messaging needs to be repeated again and again.
Primary school students worked with local artists to create hand-printed reusable canvas bags for shoppers to use.
Mall traders got involved too. They learned the importance of disposing of trade waste correctly. The litter team created a simplified diagram in multiple languages showing the stormwater drainage system and how waste ends up in the Creek and flows on to Port Phillip Bay.
Participating mall traders are now proudly displaying Local Litter Alliance stickers in their shop windows.
“Working with a diverse group of people and involving them from the start is what drove the project,” said Margaret. “Everyone was so keen to be a part of it. We came up with loads of ideas – well beyond the project scope.”
“Overall, we’ve seen a notable change in most areas,” explained Margaret. “We’re seeing less litter from TAFE students. Our new cigarette bins have reduced the amount of cigarette butts on the ground. We’re still seeing some rubbish dumped behind Vinnies and in the mall concourse,” Margaret said.
“We’re already working on these issues. We contacted one store about a problem area behind their shop. The traders have raised money to install new CCTV cameras to monitor dumping, so we can catch offenders.
“We learned a lot during the project. For example, it was harder to connect with TAFE students given and we had to make anti-litter messaging relevant to them. Given where they’re at workwise, we found they responded best to messages about littering in the workplace and how it might affect them in their current or future jobs, for example, the large fines for businesses caught littering or dumping."
Right: How many cigarettes? Our cigarette butt competition.
“Ultimately, we need to keep going with education programs if we want to keep anti-littering messaging fresh in people’s minds. Luckily, we can use the tools created for this project over and over.
“Getting people involved is what made this project. Collaboration seems to be the way forward to keep our public spaces clean, so we can all enjoy them now and in the future.”
Receive monthly emails about the latest news & events