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- by Anne Finlay-Stewart, Editor

Day 1 of x days where x = the unknown number of days I will pick up trash.

Inspired by the sun and the Owen Sound Waste Watchers trash pick up, in my Easter bunny dress and rubber boots and with my trusty picker-upper-don't-bend-downer in hand, I walked over to my neighbourhood park.

This park was built for the returning World War II veterans who started their families in the small houses surrounding it in the early 1950's. On the advice of city staff it was deemed “relatively underused” by the consultant who worked on our latest Recreation Parks and Facilities Master Plan. 

In one circuit of just the gutter around the perimeter of the park I picked up five pounds of waste – including makeup, plastic bags, a pen, mylar packaging, a plastic candy container, plastic water bottles, pop cans, and unidentifiable random bits of plastic hard and soft. There were lids and cups from Tim Hortons – (nearest one, 1.7 km away) – and Subway (2.8 km away).

And all of this – plus dozens of cigarette butts that take about 15 years to break down – were headed on their merry way with the water in the gutter towards the storm drain.

Things to ponder – what happens when the street sweeper sweeps up all the leaves, sand, sticks and pinecones in the gutter into which more waste, and LOTS of cigarette butts are mixed?

ANSWER from Public Works - "The street sweeper will pick up just about everything along the gutter line once it’s full it’ll return to Public Works and dump its load into a stockpile.  This stockpile is then transported to the old Derby Landfill site once things dry up a little (the road into the site and the site itself is a little too muddy to do any work).  If any waste makes it way the catch basins it is removed with the use of our Vactor truck as part of our routine maintenance, we vacuum out the sumps in all catch basins, and this debris is disposed of in the same manner as mentioned previously."

Day 2 of x

In less than the time it took me to listen to one episode of This American Life, in 1,892 steps from my home, I picked up a 750g yogurt container full of day2littercigarette butts. Their filters made of a form of slow-degrading plastic called cellulose acetate and they could have been there for a decade.

Ira Glass was definitely good company, and we've already developed a better way of separating butts from the rest of the litter with a cup of some kind attached to the top of the bucket with a binder clip.

As I stood with a father and his young daughter waiting for the stoplight, I realized that even though I had been working on my own, I was making a public statement. Another little girl leaned out her car window to point to litter I'd missed – she knew what I was doing – she got it.

Today's bucket full included an allen key in its original plastic ziploc, one of those plastic survey flags, some red and yellow plastic remains of someone's car lights, another pen, more plastic drink bottles and tops, cans and plastic bags. I admit I left several bags behind because they were full of doggie do.

All the cups that look alike? They are from the public water cooler at the store across the road.

And of course the ubiquitous, and barely cool, Tim Horton's cup.

Tomorrow's challenge is an empty school.


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