Dirty diapers and beer cans - volunteers talk trash
By Sue Tiffin
It doesn’t matter which part of the county people are picking up roadside garbage from, they all say the same thing: they’re finding plastic bags, candy wrappers, plastic bottles, coffee cups, cigarette butts, used diapers, and numerous empty beer cans and liquor bottles by the garbage bag full.
Eagle Lake resident Jane Jaycock keeps a plastic bag by her dog’s leash near the front door as a reminder to bring one along for the garbage she will inevitably collect while out on a walk in her area, “because sure-shooting, there’s going to be something out there,” she said.
She’s been picking up the trash that litters the roadside for more than 10 years.
“This year, when the snow melted, I picked up 14 full grocery bags full of garbage on the same route,” she said.
At least 85 to 90 per cent of the garbage she picks up is beer cans.
“But people throw literally everything out,” she said. “Liquor bottles are another big thing, so glass, they’re tossing out. People ... I’ve picked up their lunch bag, and I know it’s a lunch bag because they’ve tossed away the fork that they brought to eat their lunch.”
Besides dirty diapers, she’s also found someone’s collection of dog feces.
“So somebody had walked their dog, picked up their poop, put those little poop bags in a bag and then thrown the plastic bag out,” she said, noting that, “as crazy as this sounds, it’s very common.”
Jane knows she’s not alone – she and husband Mike post some of their finds to social media and receive numerous comments from friends and neighbours who also pick up garbage along the side of the roads throughout the Highlands.
“There’s tons of me out there,” she said, citing a resident who has also found blue bags of dog poop near Haliburton Lake, and another who picked up 90 beer cans in three kilometres along Drag Lake.
“I grew up on a farm and we were really taught to appreciate what we have,” she said. “I feel really fortunate to live here in the Highlands. I feel fortunate to live on the earth, period. I think we’re really headed in a bad direction. It gets me upset, because I figure, if we can’t teach human beings not to litter where they live ... what’s our future? And so, I was taught to respect the land. I tell you honestly, when I go away on vacations, I’m walking on a beach, I pick up garbage. Probably my little nth of a percentage doesn’t really create a difference but it makes me feel like at least I’m trying to do something positive for us.”
The Jaycocks became so frustrated by the amount of garbage they were finding, they posted a sign near Sir Sam’s Road, to remind people to keep garbage in the car until it can be properly disposed.
“From that time until now I haven’t had to pick up any garbage on Sir Sam’s Road,” said Jane. “Normally I can go out every day and there would be something new ... I’m thinking, maybe people do read. Maybe they just need to be reminded.”
Jane Jaycock said she collected 14 full bags of garbage that included beer cans, coffee cups and dirty diapers. She and husband Mike post their finds to social media in an effort to raise awareness of the littering issue./Photo submitted by Jane Jaycock
While some residents who spoke to the Echo said the littering issue was improving, most said it was not.
For the past five years, Kennisis Lake Cottage Owners’ Association roadside cleanup has expanded from a five-kilometre stretch to approximately 30 kilometres of roads around the lakes.
“We’ve found fridges, tires ... it’s amazing what we do find on the side of the road,” said Brenda Smith. “And lots and lots of beer.”
The group – which has grown from 20 volunteers to dozens – collected more than 1,000 empty beer cans on May 4, which were donated for refunds to be dispersed to local charities.
“The increased number of volunteers will hopefully add to the voices that are speaking out against roadside litter,” said Smith in an email to the Echo. “We know that other community groups and students from the local schools are also picking up trash. Many people must be tossing garbage from their cars – everyone would like to see that stop. There are many worthwhile things that volunteers would rather be donating their time to.”
The KLCOA group gets together in groups of two and three, offered garbage bags and safety vests from the county or the municipality of Dysart, creating community spirit together by cleaning the roads for about two to three hours each, with five truckloads of garbage carting away the result of their efforts.
“Cigarette butts, it’s amazing,” said Smith. “There’s hundreds of cigarette butts you pick up. You see in the movies, in the old days ... you just threw out a cigarette butt and stepped on it. Now it seems so wrong. It just seems so wrong. I think the more awareness is raised, the more people will realize, you know, wildlife lives out there. It’s not very pleasant for them to be tromping through it.”
Smith is grateful for the support of the volunteers who join her.
“It is discouraging to see how much there is, but the volunteers are committed, time after time, they come out, that’s wonderful. It’s certainly grown this year, because everyone likes to do the roads in their neighbourhood. They get a sense of pride from it. So we’re hoping people will notice we’re out there, and that might curtail [the littering].”
In Gelert, David Bathe cleans up the dead-end road he lives on and said that despite a lack of traffic on the road, there’s plenty to gather.
“Even on my road, and there’s hardly anyone who travels down our road, other than us and delivery people, for a road that has hardly any traffic on it, I still find coffee cups and Kleenex and paper towels,” he said. “It’s really kind of unusual just how much garbage there is on the side of the roads.”
He doesn’t mind cleaning it up because he feels he is doing something positive.
“I just think it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “You live in Haliburton County. I just don’t throw garbage out anywhere. It wasn’t right to throw things out the window. When I was a kid they had this Don’t Be a Litterbug campaign on TV. I used to see people throw cigarette wrappers out all the time and just chuck them off to the side of the road. We stopped doing that ... although I keep finding more and more stuff on the side of the road. We have stopped doing it but I would say in the last 10 years on my road, there is more, and I just don’t know where it’s coming from other than the increase in traffic of more and more people in the area.”
He said he lives by the quote, “leave only your footprints, take only your memories.”
Denise White-Winder, chair of the Gooderham Community Action Group, makes an event of the annual road cleanup initiated by the Highlands East environmental committee.
“We road clean and then we have an Earth Day celebration or event to try to teach children what it’s all about, not only just cleaning up Mother Earth, but composting ... different things like that,” said White-Winder, who finishes her roadside cleanup shift to get the community barbecue started. She said the support from the municipality, which supplies bags, vests and helps with the end trip to the landfill, has been much appreciated.
“I don’t like the look of it, I don’t like walking out of my home, taking my dogs for a walk and seeing garbage along the road,” she said. “I want to look at flowers, I want to look at chipmunks, I don’t know, anything, but I don’t really want to be looking at stuff that people have discarded like that alongside of the road.”
About 35 volunteers come out to the cleanup, including kids.
“It’s trying to pass it forward, and I mean that, to our children,” she said. “They have to live here after we’re gone and I think that if you instill these types of values in your young people, then you’re going to still have volunteers going forward. Without volunteers, you’re not going to have this. Municipalities can’t pay their staff to walk up and down the highways picking up trash. Our area is just too big.”
Brian Mulholland, engineering assistant for the County of Haliburton who helps manage the county’s Adopt-a-Road program, said there has been a decrease in the number of organizations affiliated with the program but that the volunteers who are involved are still finding much roadside garbage. One woman who has registered to work on a section of County Road 1 found herself a volunteer for next year, when Mulholland said she retrieved so much trash, he felt compelled to offer to join her.
“She found just a horrific amount of refuge and debris on her section,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it because she cleaned it last year. Usually the first time around it tends to be a little more overwhelming and you think after you’ve done it the first year it shouldn’t be quite as bad. But she sent me an email and told me how many bags of garbage she picked up in her section, I was just really amazed.”
Mulholland said the Adopt-a-Road program is one the county likes to encourage.
“There’s definitely sections of county roads that are available for families or organizations or groups,” he said. “There’s some really good positives in doing that type of work, your civic duty of course, or responsibility I might say, in helping the environment. But you’re getting out there, you’re active, it’s like hiking, you can do it as a family, which is really awesome too, you can do it with friends, you can almost make it into a social time.”
Volunteers were quick not to blame anyone in particular for the garbage, but said it needed to remain away from the road and in the proper spot in the landfill.
“Same ol’ fight all the time, wherever you go,” said Jane. “You wish you didn’t have to, but that’s no reason not to pick it up, that’s how I look at it. So I just keep on going.”