IF YOU WANT SOMETHING DONE, ASK A BUSY PERSON

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By Peter Dewar

This community called on recycling ace, Rose McVicar. Recycling Made Easy kicks another goal for sustainable living. It wasn’t so much the force of nature driving this eco-initiative set out to make a difference — Rose McVicar merely kept finding ways to keep waste out of landfill.

Four collection boxes at a handful of drop-off points. Simple. Recycling Made Easy provides Hobson Bay residents with convenient destinations for: discarded beauty products; old toothbrushes and toothpaste containers; empty printer cartridges and miscellaneous waste such as corks; reading glasses, mobile phones, rubber bands and X-rays. Junk that doesn’t belong in yellow bins and commonly ends up in fill.

As our blue planet groans under the burden of modern consumption, Councils tackle ever-increasing mountains of household waste. Some trial green programs; the more desperate resort to auditing kerbside bins. But what a perfect opportunity for a recycling warrior, energetic self-starter interested in building a more sustainable community.

‘It dawned on me that even if people were aware of ways to dispose of recyclables, they didn’t have time to go to any number of drop-off locations,’ says Rose as she fills me in on the exercise in sustainability that’s occupied her over the last six months.

Forget an easy-going chat. Over coffee, I’m quickly swept up in a whirlwind of names, acronyms and environmental concepts. It’s not only that recycling is actually a complex subject … a veritable industry, what Rose lacks in height, she makes up for in energy — I’m talking boundless. Just the type needed to transform an idea into reality.

While the greening of Rose took place over time, community work is in her DNA. She grew up watching a mother volunteer at church and school. Besides, ‘organising’ came easy. ‘My most successful jobs have been those that have required strong co-ordination,’ says Rose, who was previously employed as a national operations manager for a textile company, and still found time to participate in trade associations.

Ten years ago, children came along and it was time to step down, especially in a role that involved international travel. That didn’t mean slowing down. Not this human dynamo who, after completing the Melbourne Marathon, went on to conquer the internationally-renowned Boston Marathon.

Rose helped raise funds for a new timing system at her local running club and became, until it petered out, the Melbourne coordinator for On My Feet, a charity helping disadvantaged through running.

She joined St Mary’s school board and raised her hand to be involved in ResourceSmart Schools, a Victorian Government program fostering practical approaches to sustainable living. The more she learned, the more lifelong habits were being questioned: ‘Every time I went to throw something out I would research an alternative,’ says Rose, who started compiling a list of recycling opportunities: everything from discarded sunglasses to old running shoes.

Rose organised a collection of old towels for the Lost Dogs’ Home. The school community’s response was overwhelming. Stores of towels rolled in, many in such good condition they were better suited going to West Welcome Wagon, a local charity collecting household items for asylum seekers.

Rose’s new passion kept her busy, sometimes for up to 40 hours a week, but another idea was bubbling in the back of her mind that Williamstown Community Education Centre (WCEC) brought to fruition.

WCEC successfully applied for grants from the Hamer Sprout Fund and Hobsons Bay City Council to trial a community-wide recycling system, complimenting their range of sustainability programs. Rose was off, championing Recycling Made Easy.

‘Rose did a great job with a program that required liaising with Council, community centres and contractors … and captured the community’s imagination,’ says Mark Brophy, the centre’s CEO. ‘A Facebook page Rose set up has hundreds of followers.’

In six months, ten collection points were established throughout the municipality, and a comprehensive Recycling Guide published in conjunction with Transitions Hobsons Bay. Not to forget the trailer load of junk diverted from landfill.

‘Nobody wanted me to take the boxes away,’ says Rose about the response from community centres when the project came to an offical end. The Council have decided to continue funding Recycling Made Easy, which means collection points remain open around Hobsons Bay.

Rose is now building on Recycling Made Easy’s success by exploring recycling possibilities with a handful of Williamstown shop owners. And organising speakers on sustainability at St Mary’s Primary School. Waste Warriors Melbourne is the name for a more extensive project Rose is seeking funding for through Pick My Project.

The halt to exports of recyclable material threatens our entire recycling system, already struggling through ignorance and misuse of kerbside bins. While municipal waste instructions can seem as baffling as a new mobile phone contract, recycling is destined to become more necessity than feel-good option. Increasingly, we may find ourselves turning to green warriors for answers.

To contact Rose McVicar, find collection points in Hobsons Bay or obtain a comprehensive recycling guide go to Recycling Made Easy on Facebook: (www.facebook.com/recyclingmadeeasycommunity/)

 Alternatively, contact Rose as volunteer administrator of the local Buy Nothing Group at (https://m.facebook.com/groups/1382694495151045/)

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