At Keep New Zealand Beautiful’s recent “Beautiful Awards”, Tom, affectionately known as Fonterra’s ‘Captain Planet’, won the Tidy Kiwi prize for an individual who shows “outstanding and exceptional leadership in litter prevention, waste reduction, recycling and beautification activities”.
In 2015, Tom and his family moved to Palmerston North where he joined the Packaging and Innovation Team at the Fonterra Research & Development Centre (FRDC). With the move came the opportunity to walk to work. While participating in Fonterra’s 10,000 Step Challenge Tom was walking seven kilometers a day and got sick of seeing all the litter on his journey to work. So he took action.
Armed with a 20kg cheese bag and a litter grabber Tom started picking up litter - two and a half years later he has picked up nearly two tonnes of rubbish!
Tom says he’s thrilled to be recognised for his efforts but more important is the wider profile the win gives to the pick-up litter movement, Litterati.
Litterati is an app that uses crowdsourcing to tidy the planet one piece of litter at a time, and tags each piece to identify problem areas and the type of litter being dropped. Since downloading the app in April, Tom has picked up, tagged and disposed of more than six thousand pieces of litter from the streets of Palmerston North. Thanks to people like Tom, New Zealand is currently sixth on the ‘most active countries’ list for Litterati.
“The award will make more people aware of what I’m doing. It’s nice to have a backstory and to know that people can go to the Litterati website, zoom in on Palmerston North and see exactly what is being picked up” says Tom.
Tom says the management team at FRDC have been incredibly supportive, providing 50 litter grabbers for Keep New Zealand Beautiful Week events and making them available for FRDC colleagues who walk at lunchtime.
Tom’s family have also been wonderfully supportive. His two sons, Zachary and Theo think it’s cool to have Captain Planet as a Dad and have become ‘hyper-aware’ of litter wherever they go. “I’m extremely grateful for the patience and support of my wife Amy, even when it takes me an extra 20 minutes to walk home,” says Tom.
“It would be great to see more people using the Litterati App, whether it is picking up half a dozen bits of rubbish a week, or doing a tidy-up of an area with friends. The beauty of the app is every that bit counts - 1000 people picking up six bits of rubbish can double my effort in an afternoon. Wouldn’t it be great to be the first country to pick up a million pieces of rubbish and collect some really useful information about what our litter problem actually looks like! Seems a lofty goal, but is completely doable!”