Ultimate recycling – turning litter into money

Our latest column from William Thomas

Oh, I know there are more serious problems in this world than the one that has my knickers in a knot. Like that 5.4 million square mile hot tub we used to call the Arctic. Or the fact that nuclear weapons are now in the hands of a man with a cereal-bowl haircut who uses army-issue binoculars to track an intercontinental ballistic missile travelling seven kilometres per second. Or that the most powerful man in the free world is about to go “button enhancement surgery” so he can Tweet that he has “the largest Johnson of any president of the United States including Lyndon Johnson, the likes of which the world has never seen!” (Although there’s a hooker and a Playboy Bunny who got paid $130,000 to swear they haven’t seen it!)

Litter! Public littering makes me ill and angry all at once. To call these lazy, loathsome irresponsible people who make their own personal crap somebody else’s problem … pigs – is to disparage the behaviour of hogs and sows everywhere. They could only creep biologically closer to swine if they actually oinked when they pitched that coffee cup out the car window.

There are two quiet spots out here along Lakeshore Road where people pull over in their cars and admire the view, savour a coffee or enjoy a quick lunch. (At night they pull over and have sex but I’m not sure it’s the same people.) It’s two kilometres from my house or if you’re walking, approximately 700 cigarette butts along the shoulder of the road. That’s one butt for every three strides if you’re counting which I have. Once a rural route that hugged the north shore of Lake Erie, for someone who walks along it every day, Lakeshore Road is now pretty much a long and winding ashtray.

In a neurotic, noisy world these two roadside spots should be tiny, rural oases, places to breathe deep and contemplate, steal a moment of sanity and solitude. However, thanks to the people who frequent these two rest areas, people who are … how can I put this – a drag on the process of evolution – these two lakeside retreats are now eyesores of humans waste.

In between two signs put up by local residents that used to read “Please leave only your footprints” until the trashers ripped them to shreds, you have your complete collage of garbage: 11 Players cigarette packages, 25 Tim Horton coffee cups, seven pop cans, six plastic bags, a dozen McDonald wrappers, several Subway cups and wrappers, a couple Dairy Queen cartons, assorted broken beer bottles, a broken Banff Ice Vodka bottle, an unbroken Smirnoff Vodka mickey, a motor oil container, one brake fluid can, one Heinz Tomato juice can, wrappers and potato chip bags and 40 washed-up bullet casings. (And all of those coffee cups? These are the kind you don’t have to roll up the rim to know you’re a loser!)

Each site has at least two heaps of cigarette butts from emptied ashtrays. There is an empty plastic package of something called Ant Family which urges the buyer to: “Learn more about ants.” “Study mother nature.” And “Protect our environment.” And this beach called Camelot Bay; truly this is more landfill than Camelot.

There’s even a large dead fish in the middle of all this garbage, 50 feet from the water’s edge. My guess is he surfaced, took one look at the beach and committed suicide.

So the profile of the classic litterer is someone who smokes heavily, drinks hard liquor and eats fast food. I know what you’re thinking: Isn’t this problem pretty much going to take care of itself? Well yes, but not fast enough for me.

And I don’t think the Township of Wainfleet should have to clean this up. Why should my taxes go to pay Molly Maid service for people who have been immortalized in the song Old McDonald Had A Farm, Ei-igh-ee-igh oh?

Sadly, this is not just a Wainfleet problem. This is a Canada- wide travesty in which we seem to drive with the philosophy that if the window’s down, the dump must be open for business. Folks, as a society, we’re better than this.

A few years ago a Township near Renfrew, Ontario sent a very serious message to the dumpers and litterers in their community with a hefty $1,000 fine for such offenses. The cost of manpower to clean up all the debris on rural roads was depleting the township budget.

Every local government in Canada should follow Renfrew’s lead. At $1,000 per pig, this would be a cash cow for communities. Parks with dogs, beaches with picnickers, roadside viewing areas and known dumping spots – send in students with cameras this summer. Pay twenty students to each photograph just five litterers a day and your municipal budget will get a multi-million dollar boost by Labour Day. And Labour Day weekend would also be the period in which litterers in lime, green jumpsuits do their community service work to rid your local area of … litter. A $1,000 fine and 100 hours of community service and yes, even a cigarette butt qualifies as litter. The inherent health benefit in this new law begs the question: “How long can you keep smoking after you watch your car being towed away in order to pay off your littering fines?”

Singapore – style public caning will be reserved for repeat offenders. That way my ass wouldn’t be the only one burning over the issue of litter.

Looking for an assistance/Girl Friday in the Port Colborne/Wainfleet area. Please submit a one-page email to www.williamthomas.ca .



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