Double-double trouble

Russell Wangersky
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Several times a week, I trundle around Quidi Vidi Lake, up past the supermarket and out along Forest Road before zig-zagging home again, all in an effort to not surrender on fitness entirely.

All in all, the distance is about

6.2 kilometres. Once, when I was younger, it would have gotten easier week by week. So far, it hasn’t.

But that’s not the only thing that happens week by week. As the days pass, you get to see the small changes from winter to spring — the receding (now disappearing) snow drifts, the ice blackening and then suddenly vanishing, the insanely hopeful crocuses kicking up through the matted yellow grass and dead leaves, just waiting for the next snowfall to stomp them back down again.

Buried treasure

This year, it’s been a pretty even melt: the dirt-blackened snowdrifts have edged away, revealing everything from a small and crushed fire extinguisher to exactly one-half of a manhole cover, flicked well back off the road and into the brush, perhaps by a snowplow blade.

Oh, that and 34 Tim Hortons coffee cups. That’s right: 34. And I probably missed plenty, because the counting was secondary to the exercising.

Some things to think about? I didn’t count the doubled-up cups as two, either, and there were several of those. As well, part of that route includes going by the new Trail of the Caribou Memorial Park, an area that, before I started counting cups, was carefully cleaned up by city workers. Not a speck of garbage for 750 metres or so. The route also includes the corner lot by the Sheraton Hotel: once again, an area that’s kept pretty clean. So, out of that 6.2 km, you can probably discount one kilometre as not carrying the loading of your normal dumping zone.

Still, average the whole thing out, and it’s some five and a half cups per kilometre — and this is residential streets, not even the heavily-travelled, high-trash areas like the Outer Ring Road or the main thoroughfares.

In 2007, in its annual report, the City of St. John’s outlined that it had some 1,351 kilometres of city streets within its jurisdiction. (Probably more now.) Do the rough math, and you’d end up with close to 7,400 Tim Hortons cups — there’s probably more miles of roads now, and more discarded cups, too.

And it’s not just Tim Hortons cups that we seem to gleefully fling around. There’s a smattering of trash from other chains, from McDonald’s and A&W, for example.

Thrown waste

There’s also my personal favourite: dog feces, helpfully packaged in tightly-tied, tossed plastic bags. What exactly do dog owners think is going to happen to that particular offering?

It’s a science fair project just waiting to be taken on by some enterprising student.

If it were simply left alone to decompose, it would still be a mess — but it would be gone far faster. There are usually only a few samples of gift-wrapped dung around the lake; you can find higher concentrations if you know where to look. Up in Poopy Park, for example, you sometimes see them hanging in the trees like strange and unpalatable Easter decorations.

But when it comes to sheer numbers, the vast majority of the identifiable litter seems to be Tim’s cups.

And Tim Hortons didn’t put them there.

We did. Or, at least, some of us did. It must take a special disdain for this place to just roll the window down and fling it out, rather than at least bringing your empty cup with you in the cupholder to wherever you’re going.

Must be a special feeling to think that your own personal convenience is more important than anything else. The same kind of attitude that would pour waste engine oil or paint down a storm drain, or flick your old couch off the back of a pickup truck in the woods because you can’t be bothered to actually get rid of it properly.

A special gift, from that special segment of society that just couldn’t care less.

Russell Wangersky is The Telegram’s editorial page editor. He can be reached by email at

Organizations: Tim Hortons, Sheraton Hotel

Geographic location: Quidi Vidi Lake, Forest Road, Caribou Memorial Park Outer Ring Road Poopy Park

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Recent comments

  • Frances
    April 21, 2011 - 09:04

    I work in a building in the center of St. John's. Our building has an open field behind it. Someone kindly disposed of a toilet and a fridge just behind our building, which means they probably drove into our parking lot and unloaded it from their vehicle. I can't get over some people. Do they think just because it's out of their hands that it will disintegrate??? I've seen horrendous "garbage disposal sites" along our trails outside the city and that is disgusting enough but right in the middle of the city!!! I just don't get it! We have such a beautiful province and it breaks my heart to see such filth. Especially now that the snow is melting, we see the beautiful crocuses peeping out and they might just crawl back in once they see the mess they are faced with.

  • BarrieNewfie
    April 20, 2011 - 15:30

    Reading this story, especially the comments, makes me mad for a few different reasons. Littering IS wrong and common sense tells us that throwing any type of garbage wherever you choose IS wrong. It's pure laziness! And people who think they're 'above' cleaning up after themselves or who make up excuses for the reasons why people litter or passing blame as to who actually did the littering (i.e., Ursula, Wildrose and McLovin) ... R U Kidding me?! If people keep up this type of attitude it won't be long before Newfoundlanders won't be living on an island .. they'll be living on an actual dumpsite! Littering is laziness in its purest form.

  • mary
    April 19, 2011 - 17:58

    "Littering is litterally a way of throwing off our anger " I call BS on that statement. Littering is being lazy and/or not caring, simple as that. Some people figure someone else will take care of it.

    • Vicki
      April 20, 2011 - 11:07

      How right you are.

  • McLovin
    April 19, 2011 - 10:38

    It's all the baymen and contractors (sometimes they fall in both categories) who think it's ok to dump and discard their garbage whereever they like. If you walk anywhere in the woods in this province, it's a sure bet you'll find an old scrapped car, an old washer and or dryer, mattresses, etc. People just dont care. I just built a new house. Before I requested a framing inspection I cleaned up inside.....57 Tim Horton's Cup and then I went outside and picked up over 20 more. Who knows how many blew away? Make no wonder all the contractor's are too busy to take on work, they're spending all their time at Tim Horton's getting coffee and then no matter where they are, they just toss the cups and whereever it lands, that's where it stays!

  • Wildrose
    April 19, 2011 - 10:26

    Another environmentalist! Go cry to David Suzuki.

  • Ursula Dowler
    April 19, 2011 - 09:56

    People act out when they feel that their personal liberties are being threatened . Most of us are much too timid to question authority , so instead of feeling impotent , we take our aggression out on inanimate objects . Littering is litterally a way of throwing off our anger , better that then physical altercations . We even have a term for it , passive aggression .

    • Zelda
      April 19, 2011 - 14:24

      Regardless of how someone "feels," he/she should still know right from wrong - and littering is wrong.

  • How to fix it
    April 19, 2011 - 09:23

    Put a nickel deposit on the Tim's cups, that will end the littering immediately

  • Gerry
    April 19, 2011 - 08:05

    You think St. John's got it bad, try Corner Brook. People out here think it's their cultural right to dump garbage anywhere. The Mecca of trash is MacDonalds, where high school kiddies in daddy's car can't be bother to walk twenty feet to a garbage can, they just open the door, kick out trash and away they go.

  • Monica
    April 19, 2011 - 07:53

    I agree with this editorial, I have dogs and pick and throw the baggie in the nearest garbage can or dumpster and sometimes it takes a little while but what's the point of picking it up only to throw it away in the bag. It's very frustrating as a responsible dog owner watching people not do their duty, it makes all dog owners look bad!! As for litter my brother came home for a visit after living away for quite some time and it made him mad to see how littered our city has become. Of all the places he has been this was the most littered he has ever seen! He actually got out of his vehicle and asked a man to pick up the garbage that the gentleman throw on the ground at one point!! We wouldn't have our family members throw their garbage in our homes so why in our beautiful city!! This is our home as well, keep it clean!!