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Verita Stewart’s latest Ella column tackles a dirty topic – rubbish. She shares her tips for keeping the roads we enjoy litter-free
A few weeks ago I went along on the CyclingTips Friday Sickie Ride* during which I was reminded of something that really gets under my skin….
I hate litter, littering and litterers. It may be because I work in waste management and deal with this kind of thing for a living, but it is also because litter damages our environment and is very unsightly.
The Friday Sickie was an amazing ride. It took us on a picturesque loop from Healesville (about 65km to the east of Melbourne) through the Yarra Ranges National Park along the dirt section up the backside of Mt Donna Buang to Warburton,and back along Don Road to Healesville. It was absolutely stunning.
This is not a regular tourist route. It is the road less ridden in so many ways. The loop included gravel sections where not many road cyclists would usually venture. Yet we rode along the beautiful fern lined roads in the relative wilderness, we came across…
Litter that looked to have been there for a long time, mushed into the road surface.
I counted gel and bar wrappers and a month-old banana peel. Of all places to find litter, it was so disappointing to find it here, the backside of Mt Donna Buang, in the middle of nowhere.
There was not masses of litter lining the roads. It was only a few pieces here and there over the 80km loop. But why was it here at all? I don’t understand how someone can just drop their rubbish, especially in somewhere so picturesque.
Anywhere I ride, from Beach Road to Bright, I always seem to see at least one piece of cyclist-originated litter. Which begs the question: how can riders just throw their unwanted wrappers or rubbish onto the roadside without consider the impact of their actions?
It is not that hard to put your little piece of rubbish back in your pocket. So why do people litter? Is it a sign of ignorance, lack of consideration or plain laziness?
I’m going to give people the benefit of the doubt and assume that some of the litter I see comes from those who lack the awareness of strategies to deal with their bike rubbish. Here are my tips to reduce bike rubbish and keep the rubbish you produce off the road.
1. Don’t rip then spit. When eating a gel or bar, don’t rip the tab or packet completely off with your teeth and then spit the little piece of plastic on the ground. That piece of plastic is litter too. Most gel wrappers are designed specifically so that you don’t need to completely rip off the tab, so try and keep the wrapper intact.
2. Tear your bar wrapper. Before you start your ride, make a little tear or cut in the end of your energy bar wrapper. This makes it easier for you to open and eat the bar whilst on the go. It also prevents the need to tear the wrapper open with your teeth, which often leads to the wrapper ending up in two pieces. Shoving one wrapper in your pocket is easier that fiddling around with two.
3. Carry a zip locked bag. These are super handy for collecting your unwanted wrappers. Throw you banana peel in a zip locked bag to protect your pockets from getting messy.
4. Use your pockets. Put the unwanted wrapper back in your jersey pocket. This is the most obvious and easiest place to store your rubbish. You can also designate a specific pocket just to store your rubbish. This will mean that your wallet and keys don’t get all gooey from empty wrappers.
5. Don’t go bananas. Whilst banana peels are technically biodegradable, they aren’t when you throw them into a paved street. Throwing them anywhere is also still considered littering. The best thing to do with a banana peel is put it back in your pocket until your find a bin.
6. Up the back of your jersey. This is my preferred place to store rubbish when racing. Tuck the wrapper up the back of your jersey. The wrapper will sit under your jersey pockets, held in place by the elastic waste band of your jersey and won’t fall out (unless your jersey is particularly loose). It is a quick and easy place to shove your rubbish when you don’t have time.
7. Up the front of your jersey. Similarly to putting your rubbish up the back of your jersey, the front is just as easy and effective to do.
8. Up the leg of your knicks. You can tuck your wrapper up the leg of your knicks. This is an easy to reach place and very secure. I find it a good place to store those little gel tabs when you accidentally rip them off. Larger pieces of rubbish can get a bit itchy against your skin.
9. In the sleeve of your jersey. You can easily store rubbish in the sleeve of your jersey by tucking it under the collar, and maneuvering it towards your shoulder. It will hold here well and won’t get in the way. It helps to wear an undershirt so that it doen’t get to itchy.
10. Stop at the nearest bin. Hold on to your rubbish until you find a bin to dispose of it responsibly.
Holding on to your rubbish when riding is the easiest way to respect the environment you are riding in, regardless of whether you’re riding in a National Park or on an urban street.
You wouldn’t throw litter onto your driveway or your street, so don’t do it on someone else’s. I challenge you to go for a ride and see if you spot litter – hopefully you don’t! Bonus karma for picking up someone else’s litter and disposing of it!
I’m sure you have all got creative with dealing with bike rubbish whilst on the go? What’s your tip?
*It was my regular RDO from work, I did not throw a sickie!
About the author
The tagline to Verita Stewart’s personal blog reads: “Not a professional cyclist, yet” and it’s the “yet” that’s most telling. Verita is a Melbourne-based cyclist riding for Specialized Securitor. New to the sport, she’s quickly made the jump from commuting to recreational riding to racing.
She now juggles full-time work with full-time NRS racing and hopes to make the leap to the big-leagues sometime soon. Verita is full of stories and smiles and snark – and will bring all three to you on Ella. Follow Verita on twitter and instagram and strava.