Each year spring offers up a bounty of wonderful sights, sounds and smells. There’s the bursting of new green buds on the trees, flowers poking through the warm earth and of course the welcome shedding of our heavy, dark winter clothes and boots. There’s one aspect of spring, however, that always leaves me frustrated and angry. Once the snow melts we’re once again confronted with the detritus of humanity. Our highways, off and on ramps and major roadways are littered with, well, tons of litter.
It’s easy to blame humans for being lazy about disposing of our Timmie’s coffee cups, water bottles and disposable plastic grocery shopping bags. Admittedly, there’s a large portion of our population who regularly toss their litter out the car window or into the gutter as they walk along the street. But a large portion of the mess we see was simply “blowin’ in the wind”.
One warm summer day as I was waiting at an intersection to make a left turn, an arm emerged from the passenger window of the mini-van ahead me and casually dropped a half-full takeout paper cup of Pepsi onto the pavement in the middle of the intersection. I followed the van to a nearby market where I approached the passenger and confronted him with “I saw you throw that pop out at the intersection. You’re a pig!” The guilty man had obviously been drinking and acknowledged his guilt but in retrospect it was something perhaps I should have been a little more careful about addressing.
Another time I followed a teenage boy walking down the street eating a takeout Colonel Sanders chicken meal. When he was finished, he simply tossed the entire mess onto the sidewalk. I picked it up, followed him home with the intention of presenting him with it at his front door and hopefully shaming him. He wouldn’t answer the doorbell, so I stuffed the entire messy wad into his mailbox. I know I didn’t solve the world’s pollution problems but I felt better for my little act of revenge.
In the United States, prison gangs are regularly visible on major highways and interstate roads picking up garbage with their blue bus parked nearby. What a great way of giving prisoners (many of whom have been incarcerated for drug-related offences and are not necessarily dangerous) a breath of fresh air and exercise as well as the chance to earn a few extra dollars. The benefit is cleaner highways but unfortunately here in Ontario/Canada civil service unions would probably strongly object on the grounds they’re being deprived of work.
The piles of trash visible at on/off ramps and along our highways is disgusting and fixable. Can’t whoever is in charge send out a tractor equipped a giant rake device similar to what farmers use for harvesting grain and in a matter of minutes the site could be raked clean. It’s not necessary to have individuals with long-handled spikes pick up garbage one piece at a time. There are smarter solutions.
Roadside garbage that becomes visible when the snow melts is our shame, our embarrassment and we all should become more active in insisting that it be cleaned up. The problem won’t go away but at least cleaning it up would create jobs. A friend’s eighty-something mother was given an award by the City of Markham a couple of years ago for regularly picking up garbage along Highway 48 south of Highway 7 where she walks her dog. She can’t do it all by herself and it’s time our local governments sent out crews to clean our urban landscapes. I’ve written all levels of government about the issue with no response. Perhaps a phone call or e-mail to your local MP, MPP or councilor would prompt them to get off their backsides and address the problem.
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