Rubbish is a significant problem in the remote Indigenous community of Wadeye. Waste products from food, clothing, tools and other items have traditionally come from the land and been recycled back into the land e.g. seeds from fruits, animal bones, timber offcuts. In contemporary community life, there is a huge amount of packaging and waste products that cannot be recycled back into the land e.g. plastics and metals. This creates a new problem of managing waste in a remote area where ‘rubbish’ is unfamiliar and its impacts on the environment have not been well considered.
Waste products at Wadeye end up in landfill or become ‘rubbish’ lying around the community and are carried by wind and rain to the surrounding land and sea country. This rubbish can directly affect the health of people and wildlife, contributing to an unhygienic environment and harming/killing birds, turtle, sea life, etc. by eating the rubbish or getting tangled up in it. Waste products can also leach chemicals into our environment, indirectly affecting wildlife and food sources.
The Wadeye Community, with support from the Thamarrurr Rangers, have been looking at options to reduce rubbish and landfill. The Rangers collect marine debris along the 240km coastline surrounding the Thamarrurr Region, as well as promote community awareness about the impacts of rubbish on Country. Most significantly, a recycling program has recently been initiated by the Rangers. Every Friday, the Community is invited to bring their recycling down to the Ranger Base for sorting and counting, and they receive the 10c / item refund through the container deposit scheme.
In less than 3 months since the recycling program started, over 25,000 items of rubbish have been brought down to the Ranger Base by ~80 Community members. People are noticing that Wadeye is looking cleaner, as most of these items are rubbish lying around the Community. The local freight company, Murin, support the Community by taking this recycling back to Darwin for free, and a Recycling Company in Darwin then refund the Community. The Rangers have started with a small and simple recycling program, but have been very encouraged by the Community response and will continue to develop opportunities for recycling and reducing waste at Wadeye.