When the snow goes away, litter will play

The litter problem in St. John’s becomes evident every spring once the snow melts, revealing large amounts of garbage throughout the city.

Jessie Dobbin

Every spring when the snow melts, forgotten garbage surfaces in the ditches, parking lots and green areas of St. John’s.

Deputy Mayor Sheilagh O’Leary says the city has a litter problem, especially in the springtime. O’Leary says she was disgusted by the amount of litter in her own neighborhood, which was one of the reasons she became involved in the city council.

“Litter is definitely an ongoing issue for sure,” said O’Leary, who is very vocal about her concerns about the amount of litter that reveals itself every spring. She also is one of the volunteers who helps with cleanups, including the cleanup on the Outer Ring Road last spring.

Plastic bags and other litter in a small river next to a walking trail. Many garbage bags blow away over the winter and don’t get retrieved. Jessie Dobbin/Kicker

Every spring the city’s public works department hires a litter crew and focuses on cleanup of the city after the winter. The parks division has 50 staff and, according to O’Leary, focuses “100 per cent of their time cleaning up major streets and high traffic areas after the snow melts” for a two-week period in the spring time.

O’Leary also says the city hires a third-party contractor in the summer to provide any cleaning of streets and sidewalks and emptying of garbage and recycling receptacles in the downtown area.

She says during the summer the park staff spends, “approximately 15 per cent of their time . . . dedicated to cleaning up the parks and open spaces throughout the city” on top of a variety of other duties.

Every spring, the non-profit Clean St. John’s holds a city clean-up campaign involving young people called Pick It Up

The campaign begins on the first of May every year. Karen Hickman, the group’s executive director, says it normally goes on until July or August because of the inconsistent weather in St. John’s.

“We engage schools, community groups, businesses, neighborhoods, tenant associations (and) residents in the city to call us and register to do a cleanup and we’ll supply bags and gloves. We coordinate and we also pick up the garbage after the cleanup,” Hickman said.

Last year, said Hickman, Clean St. John’s received more 200 registrations for cleanups. People can fill out an online form to register or simply call to find out details of each cleanup.

One big change O’Leary says will impact the amount of litter in the city is an automated garbage collection that is expected to be introduced to St. John’s this year and will be phased in over time. This new collection system consists of specially designed wheeled carts and collections vehicles equipped with articulated arms. Residents will place these carts in designated spots on the curb and a single operator will collect the garbage.

The carts are owned by the city and assigned to each property. The carts have large wheels and are, “easy to roll over curbs, gravel, snow. They are made from durable plastic and have a 15-20-year life span.” They also come with a 10-year warranty. Residents are responsible for keeping the carts clean and secure.

O’Leary says this new program was implemented for two reasons. First, the city wants to prevent garbage from flying around and out of the reach of birds and rodents. The new containers will do a better job than nets or blankets in keeping garbage under control.

The second reason is to reduce injuries to garbage collectors due to heavy lifting of unsafe contents in the garbage they are collecting.

1 Comment

  1. The photographs are depressingly beautiful, but the Pick It Up campaign gives me hope for this world. “When the snow goes away, litter will play” compliments “We are now becoming composed of plastic bits”, although I like the second title more than the first.

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