Anti-litter crusader is honoured
Kay Latter’s name was synonymous with garbage about 30 years ago.
She was then the driving force behind RockWatchers, a Keep Bermuda Beautiful offshoot that worked diligently to keep the Island in a pristine state.
At one point, there were 500 groups working under Mrs Latter’s direction — students, corporate teams and families who agreed to keep a designated area clean.
After the best part of a decade, she stepped down. That it continues today is proof of RockWatchers’ success — KBB relaunched it as the Adopt-A-Spot programme in 2012.
“At one point it was my life,” Mrs Latter said. “My parents brought me up to never throw trash. I was never spanked and I was only shouted at when I inadvertently dumped something — once. I guess it was drummed into me at an early age that I could only throw things that would ‘rot down’ as my father referred to it. Apple cores ... that was okay. Anything else was a big no-no.”
KBB recently presented Mrs Latter with a certificate of appreciation for the work she did under the charity’s auspices.
She said she was honoured by the acknowledgment, which came “out of the blue”.
“Kay was instrumental in forming KBB’s successful RockWatchers Programme back in the 1990s,” said KBB president Amy Shillingford. “Kay worked tirelessly to encourage new groups to join the programme including school groups, corporate groups, and families who committed to keeping a part of the rock clean and litter-free. This was widely popular with more than 500 groups joining the initiative. We are so very grateful to Kay for her dedication as this created a sense of shared responsibility and good citizenship throughout the Island. In 2012, KBB rebranded the programme and launched the KBB Adopt-A-Spot Programme.”
Mrs Latter decided something needed to be done after she spent an afternoon walking around the old Canadian Navy Base.
“It was filthy, so disgusting,” she recalled. “I went to KBB and suggested I could clean it up.”
Within a few months Mrs Latter had received an advertising budget and the first RockWatchers was up and running.
Aside from keeping the Island clean, it was a great example to set to her students, said the former year four teacher at Saltus’ junior school.
“It also spread into after-school things and at some time we produced a booklet of after-school activities called Enviro Kids, things they wouldn’t get in junior school classrooms,” she said. “Little kids find it very satisfying to pick up trash.”
According to Mrs Latter, her message to the children was constant: “How about we don’t throw anything down in the first place?”
She added: “That’s what’s really important and that’s what Bermudians haven’t got. My daughter lives in the States. She has to drive 45 minutes to dump her trash. Here, we have two trash pickups a week — the guys are great, the trucks are beautifully clean, it’s shameful that we can’t all do our part. I thought for a while it was better and I think in certain areas it is, but it generally isn’t. It’s really shameful the amount of trash.”
RockWatchers cleaned the entire railway trail with Mrs Latter as its head.
“When I retired, there were over 500 groups on the books,” she said. “We had clean-ups with dozens of people. We did a clean up at Barkers Hill years ago with kids and mums. We were literally standing on three to four feet of beer bottles — generations of beer bottles. Weeds had grown over one lot and then another was dumped. It was appalling.”
Although no longer formally involved with KBB, Mrs Latter still does her part to keep the Island clean.
“I still pick up litter every day,” she said. “I run a bed and breakfast in St George’s. We had two couples — one was from Switzerland, where they’re obsessed about litter and the other was from the southern states. They both commented on the trash in Bermuda. So they do notice. Bermuda wants to be at the top of the market. We can’t do that if the place is full of trash. Particularly at this time with our tourism, it’s important to put ourselves in the best possible light.
“I find about ten pieces of trash in my yard every morning. I don’t understand why they’re there. It’s just people, mindlessly throwing it away. If trash is there, people will drop more; if an area is clean, it’s not so likely. ”
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