Trashing the ‘litterskeets’

Patrick Butler
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Last week had its share of rotten moments. Rotten weather. Rotten potholes. Even rotten whales.
But for what it’s worth, it wasn’t the pea soup-thick fog, the craters on the Ring Road or the putrid-smelling whale carcass at Trout River that stand out as last week’s low points.

The weather and the potholes were a given. As for the beached blue whale, soon to be removed from the Trout River waterfront, it was more curiosity than travesty (assuming it doesn’t explode in the next few days).

They were pretty unpleasant, but not enough to sour a week. Rather, it was another rotten subject that trashed a foggy, pothole-ridden, but mostly typical seven days.

Last week, the City of St. John’s hosted a news conference on illegal dumping, marking the first time the city spoke out about charges laid against people caught illegally dumping since it installed cameras at known dumping sites around the city in 2013.

It proved discouraging news.  

City council displayed images of furniture, refrigerators and trash bags as just some of the items scattered at illegal dumping sites around St. John’s — eyesores tucked away in the capital city of a province that likes to tout its natural beauty.

RNC Supt. Jim Carroll said five people, including a Canada Post employee from C.B.S. who was caught on camera illegally dumping junk mail, have been charged under the Environmental Protection Act with the help of the city’s new surveillance equipment. Mayor Dennis O’Keefe, for his part, promised undiscriminating punishment for future dumpers.

“We have more than enough cameras to cover the sites that we’ve identified,” O’Keefe said. “If we get anybody on candid camera — and we've gotten them — then we're going to prosecute,” he said.

The City of St. John’s has a zero-tolerance policy on illegal dumping. And no wonder, given how easy the government makes it for people to get rid of their trash.

For people to spend their time and energy loading up their vehicles with old couches and mattresses, only to dump them at the end of backwoods roads instead of at Robin Hood Bay, already seems unthinkable.

But to do so when the city offers a bulk garbage pickup service — and completely free of charge, at that — boggles the mind.

Still, people do it. And still the city grinds its teeth trying to come up with some other way to stem the problem.

St. John’s isn’t alone in its self-proclaimed “war” on dumping. Other municipalities in the province face the same challenges with regards to illegal dumping, with no better results.

With the difficulties municipalities such as St. John’s face with regards to illegal dumpers, the media attention given last Tuesday’s news conference and the charges laid against alleged offenders was the one bright spot in a story profiling the indefensible ignorance of an unabashedly determined minority — the individuals Clean St. John’s recently branded “litterskeets,” a laughable, but perfect, only-in-Newfoundland name for a group of people whose carelessness contaminates the province’s green spaces.

In a city like St. John’s, where waste-management facilities and garbage pickup are so accessible, the problem has to be awareness.

No one, no matter how uncaring about the environment, would dump their junk in the woods if they knew it was more difficult than an alternative waste disposal method, offered free of charge by the city. If there were no perceived personal advantage to dumping, why would people go out of their way to pollute the environment?

If people knew there was an easier way, they’d trash their delinquent, supposedly corner-cutting practices. Illegally dumping bulk garbage in St. John’s is about ignorance on the part of the public, plain and simple.

The services are there for the taking, but the message clearly hasn’t reached the right individuals.

Patrick Butler, who’s from Conception Bay South, is studying journalism at Carleton

University. He can be reached by email at

Organizations: Canada Post, Carleton University

Geographic location: Trout River, Robin Hood Bay, Newfoundland

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Recent comments

  • Frank
    May 05, 2014 - 17:56

    The Robin Hood Bay facility is open 6 days a week for commercial users and 5 days a week for residents. For working people that leaves Saturday to take your junk to the dump. Not good enough.

  • Viewpoint
    May 05, 2014 - 11:29

    My folks live on the Bauline Line and I went for a walk up towards the farms when I was last home. I first thought a garbage bag had broken open. Then I realized the ditches were full of fast food packaging, coffee containers, pop cans, juice bottles. Why bother putting your garbage in a proper container when I can just heave it out the window? Pigs.

  • Cashin Delaney
    May 05, 2014 - 09:08

    If there were no perceived personal advantage to dumping, why would people go out of their way to pollute the environment? These are questions for BP, Exxon, Chevron. Only social license allows these, and many other companies to pollute worldwide. Back to Sheriff of Nothingham days we are - draw and quarter someone who dumps a box spring mattress in the local hole in the woods, but have banquets for major ocean polluters. Again, I am not defending skeets, only commenting on the mentality that keeps NL hostage to King John, King Kong, or whoever Benefits from distracting from major pollution with lesser infractions that are many scales of magnitude less chronic than say (throwing darts now) Long Harbour (pollution from green electricity) Hope Brook (left a mess way back when...barely not economical today...) NLers are like mice when it it comes to these damages, but grow into Bold men & women when it comes to admonishing their own.

  • Bill
    May 05, 2014 - 05:36

    I just recently walked the Grand Concourse trail from Costco to the Health Science. I am totally appalled by the amount of trash along this beautiful trail. This picture proves that illegal dumping is not only prevalent in certain sites but all over this great city. The amount of A&W, Tim Horton , McDonald debris along with every other type of garage is truly disgusting. I am not sure what can be done to rectify this apparent defacing of Paul Johnston's great kindness and contribution to our prestige walking trails, but something has to happen otherwise what Mr. Johnston has started will slowly be destroyed .

    • Butt..
      May 05, 2014 - 07:10

      Ever think of gaining a bigger prospective on things? Are these corporations are worst polluters? You want you life to be the Truman's not. Pick up the wrappers, call the news, get your snap taken, become a #litterhero , and you don't have to whine about it, and you serve Johnston.... Sound good?

    • Maytag Man
      May 05, 2014 - 07:31

      These #litterskeets must be stopped once and for all. Only zero tolerance will change this ignorant minority who insist on making our lives miserable with their kitchen sinks, and painty cans. There is no reason we can perceive for their bizarre actions. It may be Satan Worship - corporate sacrifices to the Gods, a burnt offering to Cohen's or the Maytag Repair Man. They may be corrupting the pillars of the community with sex and alcohol. I heard a rumor that tantric sex and designer drugs are involved in these unabashed rituals, where wealthy perverts come out at night and act out "welfare fantasies" where they have unprotected sex on a possibly beg bug infested couch to get the rush from the danger, of being skeets in love.then, after going back to being rich spouses who resent each other, the world is never the same. This is how the litterskeets meme is endangering our impressionable affluents.

    • Tommy
      May 05, 2014 - 09:45

      You complain. You ask what can be done to rectify the problem? Next time you do your walk bring a garbage bag with you, as we often do. There are lots of oil drum trash containers along the way to dispose of your efforts. Be a part of the solution :)

  • Yo mama
    May 05, 2014 - 04:42

    Minimum $5,000 fine for so much as a cigarette butt....

    • Butt..
      May 05, 2014 - 07:05

      Vale won't get that much of a fine for a month of dumping toxic effluent. after 3 years and a million spent on lawyers. But the guy who smuggled the cigarette butt, without a stamp, into the province is fined a 1/4 million. Telly got a snitch-chopper, start giving us some corporate litter skeets not just putting a shame on private citizens, or some depressed postal worker while global corporations cause real damage. We prove our fascist mentality moreso every year, with the divide of rich and poor. Pick on the disenfranchised causing benign optical litter, the fete the major polluters who our MHAs worship for their money. Rich peoples garbage doesn't stink, sure. Now, will we have to create an alternate movement for corporate litter skeet foolishness. Someone spend 50,000 and litterskeet all the garbage left by exploration companies all over the island. Have fun policing your own litter on twitter, stupid townies, while the province you have never even seen before, or cared about, is destroyed. Pride in community, not snide scapegoating keeps the streets, and backwoods clean. I will pay people to litter st johns appropriately as !abrador is abused by VALE. Think this will catch on? #littertransfer MY DEMANDS 1. Fitzpatrick must dig deeper, Vale and their global collection of court actions they are fighting for similar pollution 2. Russell Wangersky must publically make a statements " effluent is worse than chip bags and pop cans" 3. send a personal pizza, and a couple grams of weed on that helicopter ye got. The question Butler asks, maybe Vale can answer it for him, if he had the balls to ask....not in a million.....