Recycling Southern Highlands: in the beginning...

by Gayle McGuinness, 6 months ago

There is a long story. However here I go with the short story. To answer the questions (I mostly do what I'm told … hmmm, well maybe not, but I will comply here) I was born here; I live here because I was born here and am yet to feel a need to move; to answer question three in the negative - I don't love Council. Oops, that's brave on a Council website! But honest.

Back to the story about recycling. Somewhere around mid 1980s an open invitation was extended to residents and visitors of the Southern Highlands to attend a forum/presentation/meeting(?) in a dressage venue at Sutton Forrest/Exeter. The topic focused on issues concerning the environment. One of the issues explored was the benefits to the environment of recycling. The guest speaker was an American First Nations citizen. He spoke intelligently, passionately and inspiringly. He cited relevant data from credible sources. He presented first hand observations on the degradation to eco systems caused by the ever growing mountains of waste going to landfill.

After the presentation(s) and questions and answers and discussions ended, a group of local people were inspired to form an action group with the intention of attempting to seek support from residents and Council to initiate recycling in Wingecarribee Shire. I was one of that group. The name chosen to represent our group was Canopy.

In order to engage with the public, and hopefully initiate community support, we took turns to sit at a small card table, with information available, down on Bong Bong Street on Saturday mornings. We presented a peg-board with items such as an (unused) disposable nappy, cigarette buts and plastic items with the projected times it would take for these items to breakdown in the environment and encapsulated in landfill. The notion of pollution through waste generated by our increasingly 'throw-away' society was, more often than not, ridiculed. We kept turning up!

It did not happen overnight, but it did happen (to borrow the phrase). Obviously. Look at where we are now. Still a way to go. But so far from that inspiring talk under the roof of the equestrian building where recycling was still a new and exciting idea to some, a ridiculous idea to others. To some it was necessary to start the conversation. To others it was folly. Canopy, manifested through hope and a positive belief that we, as residents of Wingecarribee, could make a difference. We played our part in 'getting that party started' :-)

I would enjoy to read further memories of that time, from other members of Canopy, on this site.