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On March 1st, a group of 11 Carnegie Mellon University Australia students committed to “Step up to Clean Up” for Clean Up Australia Day 2020! Our clean-up site in for the day was Pinky Flat/Tartanya Wama along the bank of the River Torrens near the Adelaide Convention Centre.
We started the day at CMU-A’s campus with an overview of Clean Up Australia Day. For the past 30 years, the not-for-profit organization has been coordinating clean ups with individuals, community organizations, schools, and businesses across the county.
They provide volunteers with a supply kit with gloves, really cool compostable bags made from corn starch, a safety kit and promotional materials, along with a ton of useful information online about the major environmental pollution issues in Australia. Cigarette butts are one of the most commonly found items on clean ups even though there are many bins with a section specifically for cigarette butts.
I shared with the group that the toxins that leach from a cigarette butt are toxic to small crustaceans and they can take 12 months to breakdown in freshwater and 5 years in seawater. This was quite alarming to everyone and definitely a problem we wanted to target with our clean up.
After getting set up with our supplies I asked the volunteers to share why they decided to volunteer today.
- One student from the Master of Information Systems Management track stated that they thought it would be a good way to start the mid-semester break and another said they wanted to get outdoors.
- A student from the Master of Public Policy and Management track said they joined because they wanted to spend more quality time with their classmates from the program.
As we made our way to the river, we picked up any rubbish we saw on the sidewalks. When we finally made it to the site everyone dispersed on their own or in small groups. After an hour of collecting, we reconvened to sort the recyclables from the rubbish.
As expected, cigarette butts were the most common item collected, but we also found bottles and cans, leftover party decorations, and plastic cups and containers. In total, we had 2 full bags of recyclables and 1 bag of general litter.
As we had our lunch and celebrated a successful clean up, I asked students to reflect on the day and if they would change some habits in their lives. Some students they said they would like to commit to doing clean ups like this more regularly.
For myself, I am making the commitment to lower my usage of single-use plastics by carrying a reusable mug and metal straws with me. Overall, everyone agreed that we can all make an impact on the waste problem here in Australia and in the world!
I want to give a big thank you to the Clean Up Australia Day organization, Esme Barratt from the Adelaide City Council’s Wellbeing of Adelaide Youth (WAY) initiative for helping us secure our clean-up site and sponsoring our lunch; CMU-A Staff and the Student Representative Committee for their support in planning and promotion, and last but not least the students volunteers for taking the time out to clean up their community!
As the Student Representative Committee’s Community Affairs Chair, I am tasked with coordinating opportunities for CMU-A students to connect with the local Adelaide community and give back. I have a few other community service activities planned for the remainder of the school year that include more clean ups and assisting with food relief organizations. I hope the CMU-A community will continue foster these partnerships and make an impact both inside and outside of the classroom while in Australia.
Written by Brittany Pruitt
Masters Candidate, MS in Public Policy and Management
Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy