Matt Heath is a radio host on Radio Hauraki and Herald columnist

Matt Heath: Trashing the kids' ethics impossible in clean era

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Christine McDonagh could have just put the KFC litter in the bin but instead became a rubbish detective. Photo / Supplied
Christine McDonagh could have just put the KFC litter in the bin but instead became a rubbish detective. Photo / Supplied

I've been trying to get my kids to litter. It's not easy. They're tidy Kiwis. When I was a child we threw stuff everywhere.

If we finished a packet of chips we'd just let it drop to the ground.

We'd hiff our empty fizzy cans over our heads into trees. Jump on our flavoured milk cartons so they went "bang" and then leave them exploded. Milk all over the pavement. Baby boomers were even worse. Filthy pigs. Boy have things changed. Hardly anyone litters any more. The streets are so much cleaner than they used to be.

Littering is against everything the children of today believe in. The other week a small piece of plastic fell out of my pocket. One of those tiny see-through restaurant counter mint wrappers. I made the executive decision to keep walking. My son wouldn't have it. He picked it up and ran back to a rubbish bin 50m away. Why bother, I said. The road is already covered in concrete. It's not like I was dropping the wrapper on the head of newly born Motutapu Island takahe.

He just smiled and said "be a tidy Kiwi, dad". Most people agree it's fine to throw some stuff out of your car window. Ciggie butts, apple cores, dead family pets. Biodegradable stuff. But not empty KFC buckets. A huge story this week involved Christine McDonagh from Whitford. She found litter on her street and acted. Pulled the receipt from the muck, took it to the authorities, who then went on the trail of the culprits. She could have just put the bucket in the rubbish. But such was her frustration with litterbugs, she couldn't let the crime stand. She fought back. She became the KFC Bucket Avenger.

The "be a tidy Kiwi" campaign of the 80s and 90s worked amazingly well. It was pure marketing genius. Right up there with "make it click", and "who smelt it dealt it". Before that campaign New Zealand was a massive stinking dump. Now it's clean, clean, clean.

I talked my 6-year-old into letting go of his pie wrapper by a drain. But he couldn't walk on.

It's shocking when you see a litterer these days. I was walking up Mt Eden recently behind a man in his 50s. He finished his Diet Coke, burped and nonchalantly heaved the bottle into the bush. I was gobsmacked. It was horrifying. Revolting. I nearly spewed. It was like seeing an old person assaulted. A yellow-eyed penguin clubbed. I was furious. I almost said something. I almost went and retrieved it myself. But at the last second I couldn't be bothered.

I could, however, be bothered trying to get my kids to litter. A little social experiment to see if I could peel back the indoctrination. I talked my 6-year-old into letting go of his pie wrapper by a drain. But he couldn't walk on. He threw a shitty and insisted on picking it up.

So hard-wired to be a tidy Kiwi that he preferred to put the mincey mess in his pocket than leave it on the ground. My 9-year-old wouldn't even drop his 1.5 litre Fanta bottle. He ran off. I chased him down, grabbed it and threw it on the ground. He picked it up and put it in the rubbish. I gave up.

Kids are ridiculously well-behaved. I was talking to some parents about a recent school camp. The children were polite, obedient, cared for each other and respected the adults. Admittedly one of my sons made a loud 2am fart sound down the main intercom system but apart from that everyone was an angel. Most kids are.

In 2016 we're a nation of tidy Kiwis. There's the odd KFC bucket dumped in Whitford but overall littering is at an all-time low.

Better still, the current generation of kids are the finest our nation has ever had. Things just get cleaner and cleaner and better and better. It's concerning.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- NZ Herald

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Matt Heath is a radio host on Radio Hauraki and Herald columnist

Matt Heath is a breakfast radio host on Radio Hauraki, and a television producer, writer and director. He made a name for himself with Back of The Y Masterpiece Television, Balls of Steel UK and the feature film The Devil Dared Me To. Matt was guitarist and singer for the band Deja Voodoo which released two top twenty albums. He is currently a producer on Best Bits, a cricket commentator for The Alternative Commentary Collective, and the director of Vinewood Motion Graphics. Matt is a father of two living in Auckland City.

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