By ALEC SMART
When the worldwide coronavirus pandemic struck these shores in February 2020 and businesses, restaurants and venues shuttered in an effort to contain the virus, Australians pioneered social activities under ‘lockdown’ that other countries would soon copy.
These included: hoarding toilet paper (enough to wipe away until the end of the millennium!) and swarming en masse to the beaches.
However, a significantly less controversial activity involving garbage disposal began on social media and captured the zeitgeist, creating such a stir that dozens of copycat groups adopted the stunt.
Furthermore, it didn’t risk supermarket brawls or police issuing on-the-spot fines for violating social distancing.
Danielle Askew of Hervey Bay, Queensland, encouraged Australians to relieve the stress of the nationwide Covid-19 lockdowns by posting amusing photos of themselves doing the one activity that united nearly all of us stuck indoors – taking the garbage bin out – but dressed to impress.
On 28 March, she created a Facebook group, Bin Isolation Outing, to publish the images, and membership of the group swelled to 300,000 within just a few days as the daft craze caught on.
Bin and tonic
The concept proved to be bin and tonic to the masses. But what inspired Ms Askew to launch the group on social media, rather than just send a funny photo to her local newspaper?
“I started the page for my friends, to make them laugh,” Ms Askew told the Sydney Sentinel. “They shared it to their friends and so forth until within three weeks there were one million members! I didn’t expect this, I simply wanted to make my friends smile as the world had changed so rapidly and I believe laughter is the best medicine. I’m always making my friends laugh in one way or another.”
The trend captured the public’s imagination as literally thousands of home-isolated participants worldwide displayed their creative talents for the weekly walk out with their household waste.
Participants uploaded photos of themselves either wearing smart evening dress or resplendent in imaginative costumes, from film stars to superheroes, posed alongside those ubiquitous big bins most urban councils supply for rubbish removal.
The wacky theme expanded to cosplay and decorating the bins themselves.
Was Ms Askew surprised with the speed in which her idea gained popularity?
“I was amazed at how fast it spread around the world,” she said, “like Covid but in a good way! There were many groups that started up, some even using my personal photo of me taking my bin out!”
One Melbourne-based spin-off group, Bin Sheilas, has since released a 2021 calendar of pretty women posed beside bins, with all proceeds going to Impact for Women, the charity providing support to women and children fleeing domestic violence.
How many photos does she estimate were submitted to her Facebook page of bin outings?
“The first few months I had over 25,000 pending posts a day,” she said, “so it’s near impossible to guess how many people participated.”
End in sight
However, as national restrictions on social gatherings ease and Australians return to a post-pandemic world with workplaces and venues reopening, the Bin Isolation Outing Facebook page has declared it will soon cease operating.
On 6 December, the page announced, “Bin Isolation Outing will be closing permanently on 31 December 2020. As the world emerges from its Covid-19 lockdown and life starts to get back to normal, the need for Bin Isolation Outing has diminished significantly.
“The increase in trolling and nastiness has taken its toll on the admin team, leading them to believe that the group has reached the end of its natural life.”
During its short and glorious existence, the apolitical social group was repeatedly besieged by trolls, scammers, spammers and Covid-19 deniers, or persistent narcissists uploading umpteen ‘selfies’ of themselves with no bins in sight.
To combat this ill-will, administrators were forced to delete hostile posts and make several announcements requesting people to stick to the spirit of the enterprise – keep it light and fun.
“The page has taken all my free time and the free time of my amazing moderators,” Ms Askew told the Sentinel. “Not only do we approve posts but we also monitor the comments where trolls and keyboard warriors have caused much negativity.
“The page has evolved over the last few months, less people dressing up to take their bins out … The moderator team and I feel that the page has done what I originally attended, made people smile. Now it’s time for us to have a much needed rest.”
With so many witty photos are there plans afoot to publish a book of the best?
“If I manage to find time and someone to assist, I may make a book with all the amazing posts that evolved,” Ms Askew revealed. “My favourites were the birthday outings, weddings and other celebrations. Birthdays are so important and Covid made these impossible to celebrate with friends and family. Through this page people had a stage for many good wishes.
“I was reconnected with my niece through this page and that alone is worth all the time I have dedicated over the last nine months.”
One regular poster, Tarn Maley, (in)famous for dressing up in character costumes, has contributed over 260 postings to the bin outing Facebook page – averaging one a day. Mr Maley revealed to the Sentinel what inspired him to dress up for the wacky isolation challenges.
“Every year in Hastings UK, where I live, we have an event called Pirate Day where the whole town dresses up as [pirates] and enjoys music, good food and beer. Last year, I bought a pirate costume but missed out on this year’s event due to lockdown.
“Not to be thwarted, I promised the one or two friends I had on Facebook that I would dress up every day during lockdown (thinking it would only be a few days). Several costumes later I was still at it and then saw Danielle’s bin site. I thought it would be fun to join and so I did.
“At the end of my road is a fantastic antiques and curiosities emporium,” Mr Maley continued, “which also hires out fancy dress – the proprietor is a good friend of mine. I told her about my antics and she offered to help out by lending me as many costumes as I needed.
“After 100, I was going to stop, but I was bombarded by so many well-wishers asking me to carry on that I couldn’t let everyone down. It was then that I realised that some people actually need this sort of lift and look forward to my posts.”
Does Mr Maley come from a dramatic arts background?
“I was a police officer for 30 years,” he revealed, “retiring in 2018, and I often attended incidents involving Mental Health conditions … I post not only for myself and the enjoyment I get from thinking up new ideas, but also for other people struggling more than me. Every one of my costumes is different and so far I am up to 263!
“My personal favourite costume so far has to be Edward Scissorhands, or the Mad Hatter. I have had many new Facebook friend requests and now have over 2,000 friends which has made me feel delighted and valued.”
Will Mr Maley continue his regular costume parade (sans bins) after the bin group closes at the end of 2020?
“I will continue to post but only on my own personal page,” he said. “New friends are welcome.”
It’s clear that despite the impending closure of the Bin Isolation Group, one of its most prolific contributors will prevail in the world of dress-ups, general silliness and the mirth we all need in these difficult times.
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