For Dean Walton, picking up rubbish helps calms his mind – it’s also put him in line to win a state-wide award.
Keep Australia Beautiful Victoria has announced this year’s shortlist for the Tidy Towns and Cities Sustainability Awards, with Surf Coast local Dean’s Torquay Rubbish Rangers featured in the Litter category.
Dean’s community group has been recognised for its project ‘Cleaning Up Torquay, For Good’, where volunteers get together to pick up litter around local beaches, streets and parks.
Dean said the journey to forming Torquay Rubbish Rangers began in February 2022 and has been a “slow build”, with Summer being the busiest period.
“The weather’s warmer and people are up a little bit earlier,” he said.
“You know, Sunday 9 o’clock in the middle of winter is not a great time to get people out of bed.”
Torquay Rubbish Rangers uses their own equipment acquired through a council grant.
“There’s groups that have already been established in Anglesea and Aireys Inlet before ours, and my wife and I used to go to Anglesea, and then Anglesea kept pushing us to start one in Torquay, so eventually we did,” Dean said.
Dean said he founded the Torquay Rubbish Rangers for varied reasons.
“We used to live in Melbourne, and I said that if I ever got to live in Torquay, I would do everything in my power to keep it clean,” he said.
“I used to pick up rubbish where I lived in Melbourne, and I really enjoyed it.
“The second reason is I have some anxiety issues, and I find that picking up the rubbish is very calming and almost meditative for me.
“So if I get stressed out or a bit anxious about a whole lot of other things going on, I just go out and pick up rubbish. I just focus on the rubbish, just get out in the fresh air and not worry about everything.
“It was also to try and meet some new people in Torquay, because we didn’t know anybody when we moved down here.”
When it comes to the future of Torquay Rubbish Rangers, Dean said he was “taking it day by day.”
Some ideas included working with schools and getting students to pick up rubbish “on the way to and from school”, with hopes of engaging high school students in particular.
The Sustainability Awards finalists will be revealed on September 13, with the winner announced October 23 at Federation Square, Melbourne.