Commentary – First impressions: garbage and potholes

Joe McWilliams

OK, it’s time for my annual spring rant about garbage!

Needless to say, there’s a lot of it. But here I am saying it anyway.

One of the things to do while semi-quarantined is go for walks. Some people don’t like doing it and – let’s be frank – don’t want to read about it either.

However, walking, driving or just plain sitting on my arse in the living room [with a good view of the street], I can say for certain there are a lot more people taking a lot more walks these days. At least in the town I call home.

So if they are out there, they must be seeing some of the same things I am, which is a vast amount of garbage. It chokes the ditches. It clutters the walking trails. It infests the creek corridor. It lines the sidewalks leading away from every fast-food joint and convenience store.

People apparently buy their coffee, guzzle it and chuck the cup away when they are done or sometimes before they are done. Same goes for food containers or wrappers. Buy, eat, chuck! Repeat as many times as you like!

There may be a garbage can a few metres ahead, but screw it! I don’t give s#@%!

That sounds crude, but seriously, they must not give a s#$#! And they are not few in numbers.

So, where does that leave us? When the snow retreats it is an ugly sight. I don’t think the word obscene is out of place.

For many of us it is annoying and troubling. We like to think we live in a civilized society that cares about how things look and takes care of the place.

Well, guess again! That is only partly true.

Other things are true also. One of them is some alternate version of civilization in which it is perfectly OK to toss garbage left and right as you go through your daily business, whatever it may be.

But…let’s be fair…some of the garbage clogging up our ditches, boulevards and what have you gets there by accident – sort of. It blows out of the back of pickup trucks. Ravens drag it out of dumpsters. Wind blows it around. It’s all preventable, but at least it isn’t deliberate.

Fair enough. Life has its unpleasant side wherever you happen to live. Accommodations must be made and one of them is to pitch in to the community clean-up effort every spring. It is never enough, but it is a lot better than nothing.

We shouldn’t be waiting, though. The amount of litter surrounding the entrance to Slave Lake [and presumably other communities like it] amounts to a big billboard, telling passers-by: ‘WE DON’T CARE IF WE MAKE A BAD FIRST IMPRESSION.’

But maybe they are so distracted by the potholes they don’t notice the 10,000 shopping bags clinging to weeds in the ditch.

Somebody proposed recently the municipality offer $5 a bag of collected garbage as an incentive. It probably won’t fly, but there are some gift cards on the line in this spring’s cleanup campaign in Slave Lake.

Another idea is that municipalities could wrangle an agreement with the businesses that produce a lot of what ends up as litter. They pay into a fund – it wouldn’t have to be much – and the municipality hires a person or two to pick up trash.

Either that, or enforce the hell out of it and write tickets. Every one of those cups and bags came from somewhere.

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