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Jindabyne woman collects 760kg of rubbish along roads since April

Elka Wood28 September 2020
Petra Richter and her family with rubbish they have collected along Jindabyne roads.

Petra Richter and her family with some of the rubbish they have collected along Jindabyne roads. Photo: Supplied.

A Jindabyne woman has collected more than 760kg of rubbish along 6km of road from her house to town since she began going for regular walks and runs during the COVID-19 lockdown.

And that doesn’t include the steel, cans and bottles she has recycled.

Petra Richter says she’s not out to blame anyone, but if we all went walking and picked up a few pieces of rubbish everywhere we went we’d have a cleaner environment – and “sexy bottoms to boot”!

Since she posted a video of her Barry Way clean-up efforts on her online community noticeboard, Petra has been flooded with offers to help from her community and she says she’s in the process of coming up with a safe way to hold a regular community clean-up event along roadways.

She’s also been given a $600 voucher from Snowy Monaro Regional Council so she doesn’t have to pay to take the rubbish to the tip.

Until recently, Petra has just been helped in the clean-up by her close family, who, incidentally, she was getting some space from when she first went running back in April.

Petra Richter and Petra Tesarova standing next to van with collected rubbish in it.

Petra Richter, left, with her friend, Petra Tesarova, who now picks up rubbish as well. But don’t worry, you don’t have to be called Petra to join in. Photo: Supplied.

“We have a small house and when COVID-19 hit, we had an overseas visitor staying with us as well as our three boys so I decided it was a good time to get back into running, which I hadn’t done since having my third son,” she says.

Petra admits taking up running again after many years is hard work, especially because she made it even harder by starting to pick up rubbish and coming home “with my hands full”.

She then graduated to small bags and then big sacks to carry her haul.

“Now I run into town twice a week, filling bags and leaving them in certain places,” she explains. “Then I meet my husband in town for coffee and we pick up the bags on our way home.”

Petra has run carrying some awkward objects, including steel poles and sharp or bulky items, but says she just sets her sights on the next tree and tells herself it’s increasing her workout.

“People go to the gym for this kind of exercise,” she jokes.

The worst places for rubbish are parking bays along the road, where it seems people eat and drink and then toss all their rubbish out of their cars.

Rubbish in the back of a van.

Some of the roadside rubbish Petra Richter has collected. Photo: Supplied.

“It’s been so shocking for me to see so much rubbish – there are so many wet wipes out there,” says Petra. “Those don’t break down at all.”

She says the volume of rubbish has been consistent before and during the peak winter tourism season, but the overall amount has been getting better since she’s cleaned up pre-existing rubbish.

“Now it’s mostly fresh stuff – lots of coffee cups and drink cans every time I go out,” says Petra.

The worst thing she has found was a badly injured kangaroo, down in a ditch and not visible from the road. She was able to contact a local wildlife carer who euthanised the animal.

“It was the saddest thing,” says Petra. “I see a lot of dead, smelly kangaroos but this one was alive and unable to move, just looking at me.”

But there are perks to the job as well.

“Once I found an unopened bottle of red wine from local winery Shut the Gate, just lying on the side of the road,” she says. “We tasted it with a friend who knows about wine and he said it was still good so we drank it.”

Petra Richter holding discarded bottle of red wine.

Petra pictured with her best roadside find so far – red wine from local winery Shut the Gate. Photo: Supplied.

Petra runs in almost any weather, but says she’s grateful that mornings are now lighter and warmer.

“There was just one time I turned back – it was thick mist and I couldn’t see anything, even with a torch,” she says. “A kangaroo jumped out right in front of me and I got spooked and went home.”

It was COVID-19 that put Petra on this path and she says the best thing we can do for ourselves and for the world during the pandemic is to get out and move.

“When you feel bad, walk,” she says. “Get some fresh air, some exercise; it’s so good for our immune systems to be out and moving. And if you happen to pick up some rubbish, that’s a win-win.”

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