Everyone knows that plastic bags and wrappers, cigarette butts and bottles are litter if they are not disposed of properly but many don’t put lawn clippings and kitchen scraps in the same category.
This is a perception that Litter Ambassador Maureen Schmitt wants to change. She said that although green waste from the garden is organic it is still very destructive if it is dumped in bushland, on sand dunes or on riverbanks.
“Garden waste should be considered a valuable resource, far too valuable to just dump somewhere,” said Ms Schmitt. “Lawn clippings, tree prunings, leaves and even weeds are perfect for making compost or mulch for the garden but they spoil the structure and biodiversity of natural bushland environments.”
Ms Schmitt said many garden plants are nothing more than aggressive ‘bullies’ with no natural controls to restrict their spread in bushland. “Some material, like palm fronds can take years and years to breakdown and they provide no beneficial service to the environment,” she said. “Garden plants can quickly spread by seed or cuttings to form a monoculture of weeds in the bush, and grass clippings can smother native plants and introduce foreign grasses.”
Rather than dumping garden waste, Ms Schmitt suggests leaving lawn clippings on the lawn as a natural fertiliser and mulch, or mixing them with leaves, twigs and a little blood and bone to make a well-aerated mulch for garden beds.
“If you have a small garden it can be economical to share a garden bin bag with a neighbour or even donate your clippings to someone else’s compost,” she said. “Small tree branches cut up into 20 or 30 cm long pieces will break down slowly or you can use them as stakes for other plants. Palm fronds are one of the most difficult things to deal with but even they can be put to use as stakes once the leaves have been removed and added to the garden mulch.”
Using garden waste in this way will help smother weeds, slowly release nutrients and preserve soil moisture – all good outcomes in the garden. Ms Schmitt uses old bins with their bases removed as micro-composters around her own garden. Placing a bin at the base of a tree or within a vegetable garden, she puts all sorts of organic waste from the kitchen and around the garden, including weeds, and pops the lid on. Over time the contents of the bin breaks down and the nutrients are transported into the soil around the tree or veggie garden by industrious underground workers like earthworms.
“This system works so well and means I can ‘Bin it!’ in my own backyard,” she said. “There is no maintenance or digging required and no smell. I can just keep adding new material to the top of the pile. No green waste is sent to landfill and I don’t have a pile of waste that I need to dump.”
Larger tree branches and trunks are more difficult to manage and will generally need to be taken to a waste facility where the Bundaberg Regional Council uses them to make compost for residents to buy. Ms Schmitt recommends neighbourhood cooperation to reduce the cost of taking green waste to the dump as sharing the cost of a full load makes good economic sense. Dumping green waste anywhere other than at a waste facility is illegal and costs councils and ratepayers time and money to clear away weed infestations.
If you see household, garden or industrial waste being dumped in the bush, or rubbish being dropped or thrown from a vehicle, you can report the incident to Bundaberg Regional Council.
The Taking the Lead on Litter! Project is supported by the Queensland Government’s Litter and Illegal Dumping Community and Industry Partnerships Program.
For more information about the BMRG’s Taking the Lead on Litter project, please contact Jacinta Jowett, Project Coordinator on (07) 4181 2999.