My sons moan when I pull off the road and stop for them to lean out and pick up a bottle or can but it is a habit which was firmly established in me in childhood.

As kids, we would collect beer and soft drink bottles for the refunds as a significant addition to our cashflow.  Family size Coke bottles then (families have clearly got thirstier over the years as the bottle size has dramatically enlarged) reaped 20 cents as did flagons, so to find them was a bonus.  You needed to collect half a dozen beer bottles to get 6d so that was a good deal more arduous.  We would take the odd soft drink bottle into the Ritz Cafe, get the return and then delight in the joys of 5 cents worth of mixed lollies.  Such simple pleasures.

We also collected hessian bags for which we got 20 cents per unit.  Our rabbit trapping yielded lots of bunny skins which my older brother would dry and sell to Michelle’s Wool Merchants.  Mum used to save animal fat and pour it into old large kerosene tins.  This tin would sit out on a tank stand and the magpies would take their fair share and Mum would sell what they didn’t eat to the butter factory in Naracoorte.

So, the concept of recycling was inculcated in me from a very early age.  I simply find it easier to pick up than it is to go past recyclable materials, much to my sons’ chagrin.  On a trip my husband and I took driving to the Sunshine Coast in Queensland many years ago, we were both amazed and appalled at how many bottles and cans lay on roadsides interstate.  It agitated me to see them there and not be able to pick them up in a way that only the denial of a long held habit can do.

The concept of helping the environment which is inherent to such action came later.  Despite my rigorous modelling, this behaviour does not seem to have been picked up by my sons.  Maybe the habit will kick in down the track.


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