New Zealand has a culture of chucking stuff out of the car window as we are driving along. And Taupō volunteers have made note.
We can't blame international tourists (because there are none), so the food wrappings, empty bottles and cans, and face masks along the side of our roads must originate from Kiwis, says Tidy Taupō volunteer Carol Lamb.
And another volunteer who collects rubbish the day after an event, Verna Cook-Jackson, says businesses that sell food need to take more responsibility when it comes to food containers that become litter.
Independently, both got in touch with the Taupō & Tūrangi Weekender to report their recent experiences. Leading the charge of volunteers who regularly help out with picking up rubbish from the roadside is Tidy Taupō's Carol Lamb who reported that a local guide who regularly runs from Huka Falls to Reid's Farm is seeing fewer tissues and faeces in the bushes, suggesting they are not being used for toileting in as often.
"We are not seeing the poops in the bushes," said Carol.
However, Carol says more rubbish than ever is being thrown out of cars, for her and other volunteers to pick up. Sharing the Wairakei Drive beat with Rex Matheson and Scottie Barry, Carol says in 2016 she picked up 34kg and in August 2020 she picked up 50kg, an increase of 16kg.
She says she's astounded at the amount of alcohol containers thrown from vehicles.
"I believe we have a drinking culture in cars. Both passengers and drivers," said Carol.
Joining the empty alcohol containers are fast food wrappings, and since Covid-19, disposable face masks and gloves.
"In fairness to takeaway consumers, a big percentage of roadside litter is coming from uncovered or insecure loading of trucks, trailers and utes."
Carol says disposable masks and gloves account for a considerable volume of roadside rubbish.
"I am totally disgusted at the amount of latex gloves and masks I have picked up since Covid started. [These people] have no respect for our land or the environment."
In June 2020 Carol was out picking up silage wrap from Oruanui Rd. She says she finds silage wrap everywhere she cycles.
"It is because loads are not covered with nets or tarpaulin like the old days. Everywhere I cycle, I come across silage wrap even the mowers spit it out," says Carol.
On New Year's Day, Verna Cook-Jackson was one of the 20-plus volunteers who assembled for a Taupō District Council-organised clean-up to pick up litter and rubbish tossed by those taking part in the New Year's Eve celebrations. This was her third time volunteering to clean up the day after a big event and what strikes her each time is the disconnect between the businesses who sell the food and drink and those taking responsibility for cleaning up.
"I have never seen or heard of any of those businesses doing anything to contribute to picking up the litter their customers leave.
"On the reserve across the road, apart from the fast food detritus there were many of the mini sushi soy sauce bottles, wrappers from cafes, empty bottles, broken bottles and even gnawed chicken bones.
"Something is wrong when the residents are picking up the litter which has come from profit-making businesses."
Taupō resident Bruce Clements, who got in touch with the Taupō & Tūrangi Weekender to express his concern about the amount of litter around the district, says while Taupō's town centre is beautifully kept with clean streets and lovely garden plots, driving in any direction away from the town the amount of rubbish discarded from cars is noticeable.
He suggested one way of tacking the problem might be that takeaways ordered through a restaurant drive-through had the vehicle's registration number written on the bag, saying that might discourage roadside litter and would take little effort and time on the part of the food outlets.