Don't mess with our parks

Residents say ‘don’t mess with our parks’.

Project information

  • Name: Don’t mess with our parks
  • Lead: Maribyrnong City Council
  • Location: waterways in the Maribyrnong and Stony Creek catchment
  • Themes: park litter; litter and waterways; urban parks; carry-in, carry-out

Would you take your park litter home if you thought it would save the Growling Grass Frog? More than 75 per cent of Maribyrnong residents said they would. But not if it means removing bins from parks. 

Residents responded angrily when the council removed bins as part of a carry in, carry out trial. The council wanted to see if removing bins would encourage park users to take their rubbish home. Parks Victoria have successfully reduced litter and dumping in remote and some urban parks by removing bins as part of their carry in, carry out waste policy.

But 89 per cent of residents strongly disagreed, especially when it comes to parks with BBQ facilities and playgrounds. While residents may not have taken up pitchforks, some did deliberately leave waste behind in protest. Others would get rid of waste by using bins at neighbouring houses. 

“We have several parks in the Maribyrnong River and Stony Creek catchments with ongoing litter issues,” said Pip Hildebrand, Sustainability Officer at Maribyrnong City Council. “We wanted to trial different ways to reduce litter and dumping waste around bins.

“A lot of litter ends up in our waterways and affects our wildlife. The Growling Grass Frog for example is on the endangered list. There aren’t many left in Victoria now. It relies on its wetland home for survival and litter is just one of many threats faced by these frogs.

Testing our approach 

The council tested three approaches to reducing litter in parks:

  • install signs and remove existing litter bins (carry in, carry out)
  • install signs encouraging visitors to take waste home but no bins removed
  • install more prominent signs at a park that currently has no bins (Pipemakers Park).

“We thought that a carry in, carry out approach might lead to a longer-term change in behaviour around litter, with people becoming more aware of how much waste is generated in parks, particularly single-use and highly packaged products.

“We installed bin removal notices to let residents know about the upcoming trial. Notices directed people to a ‘Your Say’ portal with more information on the project and the chance to give feedback. We used a picture of the Growling Grass Frog and statistics from surveys showing overwhelming community support for protecting the frogs.”

Rubbish bin with a public notice on its side

Left: Bin removal notices; Right: Pipemakers Park and wetlands

“After several weeks, we removed the bins and installed signs asking park users to take their rubbish with them.

“For our second approach, we installed bin wraps at three parks, with messages about protecting the frogs. Lastly, we put new signs up at Pipemakers Park, asking ‘Have you taken your litter with you?”

“We audited litter and bin usage at all parks throughout the trial.

“We also visited the parks with flyers and held three events in each park, with guest presenters from Melbourne Water and Wildlife Xposure. We published articles in the Star Weekly and in the council’s Sustainable Maribyrnong newsletter. 

Bin wraps good, removing bins bad

“Based on residents’ feedback and bin and litter audits, the best approach was to install bin wraps without removing bins,” explained Pip. “Less litter was left around bins and people were more aware of how litter affects our waterways and aquatic species.

“Any positives from removing bins were outweighed by residents leaving waste in the park as a protest against the inconvenience of carrying waste away. Either that or park waste ended up in the bins of nearby houses which was inconvenient and potentially unsafe for those residents.”

No community support for carry in, carry out

“Quite simply, the community did not support removing bins from parks,” said Pip. “Without community support, the carry in, carry out approach cannot work.

“Perhaps with more time and resources and a dedicated education campaign, we could convince residents to support this approach. But some parks, such as those with BBQ facilities, may just not be suitable for carry in, carry out. It is also possible that removing bins won’t work in urban parks because litter can be disposed of in nearby residential bins instead.”

As one resident explained, “I love the idea in theory, but in practice I can’t see it working. I think many will be too lazy to take their rubbish. I think mums with bubs will be okay but teenagers that hang out after school or at night aren't going to care at all.”

Expanding on what works

“After the trial, we wanted to expand on what did work. Given that bin wraps did deter dumping around bins, we added 15 more to park bins.

“We made three more frog friendly park signs to help build the connection between litter and frog populations.

“Bin audits showed a lot of recyclable materials in rubbish bins so we installed three new recycling bins at trial parks

“We will keep working with the community to help them understand how litter affects our waterways and our frog population. We will continue to promoe frog monitoring and integrate data into our Frogs of Maribyrnong Strategic Action Plan.” 

Further information

Contact Pip Hildebrand, Sustainability Officer at Maribyrnong City Council on 03 9091 5639 or phillippa.hildebrand@maribyrnong.vic.gov.au

Visit www.maribyrnong.vic.gov.au