Trashing the place

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Each spring, for many years now, I wonder who will take the initiative to clean up the roadsides on the highways leading in and out of the northeast Avalon metropolitan area. Each year, I am disappointed that nothing is done, disappointment that grows in pace with the growing piles of litter.

Perhaps the litter has been there so long, people just don’t see it anymore. It’s naturalized, become part of the scenery.

Or perhaps each level of government is biding its time, waiting to see if another will kick itself into action and clean up the mess. Volunteers like me can only do so much. The mess is now so tremendous that it really requires a full team of people and many days, if not weeks, of attention.

The roadsides, ditches and medians are filled not only with the regular refuse that people toss out their windows, like coffee cups, fast-food bags and windshield-wash bottles, but also with things like sheets of plastic and large pieces of styrofoam (perhaps fallen from passing trucks or blown in from the industrial parks). You’ll also see the stuff that people who are too lazy to go to our beautiful and user-friendly regional waste management facility discard: mattresses, televisions and armchairs are just a few of the items I’ve seen on one stretch of highway. What shocks me more than the inaction of our governments is the apparent reality that no one seems offended by this.

Do we not deserve better? Does anyone realize that all these manufactured materials pollute the ground and, in turn, the water we drink or the fish and the berries we eat?

What we need is co-ordinated action among all levels of government. Why can’t the Town of Conception Bay South, the City of Mount Pearl, the City of St. John’s and the provincial government get together and co-operate on a regional strategy for collecting garbage and doing regular sweeps on the Outer Ring Road, Pitts Memorial Drive and the Manuels Access Road, three of the most heavily used access roads into and out of St. John’s and surrounding areas? Sadly, the mess is either the first or the last thing that tourists travelling by car see.

This weekend, we are receiving visitors from various parts of Canada and the U.S. and, naturally, we want to show them the sights and do some hiking. Unfortunately, we have decided we must avoid the highways and instead take the “old way” to places like Bay Roberts, Cupids and Brigus as we are just too ashamed of the mess they will see along all the way, ashamed of how we can allow ourselves to create and live in such filth and ashamed of how it reflects on us as a people, as a province and what we value.

For all the talk about the province being on the road to prosperity, there’s one lesson our municipal and provincial leaders clearly have not learned: a key part of being prosperous is looking the part. But, then again, the nouveau riche never pull it off quite like the old money folk, do they?


Jeff Button

St. John’s

Geographic location: Avalon, Mount Pearl, Outer Ring Road Manuels Access Road Canada U.S. Bay Roberts Brigus

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Recent comments

  • Eli
    May 07, 2013 - 16:03

    Quit blaming governments for the mess. It's the god-damned lazy, ignorant louts that live amongst us.

  • david
    May 06, 2013 - 12:26

    Newfoundlanders have always been inexplicably filthy people in our attitudes about throwing trash wherever we like. It is almost a genetic trait, and certainly a social norm. One particular "tradition" that It has always amazed me is the surly, resentful attitude we have towards the beer bottle....though each worth 10 cents, we cannot throw them far enough into the woods, or smash them into small enough bits. From people who didn't have a "spare" $24 a case to start with, they yell : "Here's what I think of your measly $1.20 deposit! I already got me lotto ticket!" And we all marvel at those TV tourism ads, the ones that show us as some sort of serene, guru custodians of mankind's last, great, unspoiled refuge. ...Sure. Whatever.

  • paulSt.John's
    May 06, 2013 - 09:40

    A once a year clean-up sponsored by the fast food corporations where most of the garbage originates is not working. It probably results in more littering as people convince themselves that it will all be cleaned up eventually. What we need is a special tax on the fast food/beverage industry and then use that money to hire people to keep our towns and cities clean. And have you seen the mess around some gas stations/convenience stores? I guess profits are so low that they can't even pay staff to empty the garbage cans and pick up litter every day.

    May 05, 2013 - 21:25

    My question is where are all the garbage containers that the City should be providing along the streets, trails. Shouldn't private businesses and schools be required to have garbage containers around their properties, more than one. Shouldn't it be a bylaw that any person or business with a convenience store or deli or restaurant be required to have garbage bins on their property. This in my opinion would cut down on a lot of the litter flying around this City. There is no where to put garbage or doggie bags unless you are on the Rennies River Trail and that to me is NOT GOOD ENOUGH. This needs to be a priority.

  • Unfortunate Son
    May 05, 2013 - 13:08

    What's the point to vent about this subject. People who routinely litter don't read either.

    • david
      May 06, 2013 - 12:13

      If people who litter don't read, then please explain how the Telegram or anyone else has ever sold newspapers in Newfoundland. We are thoughtless pigs.

  • Jay
    May 05, 2013 - 11:01

    Unfortunately,this province has developed a culture of "lack of cooperation." Maybe it was poor economic times where communities had to take a "survival of the fittest mentality", rather than cooperate. Perhaps it was a small population voting for three different political parties, and living in hundreds of competing municipalities fighting over crumbs, even though their ideologies were similar, rather than electing the best people for the job. Maybe we came to believe that fighting with each other was the correct way for a democratic process to work. Now we have a situation where disputes are solved by blocking roads, shutting down schools, and throwing fish overboard. We vilify politicians, calling them traitors, if they try to work with other parties, or other levels of government. Individual municipalities cut each other's throats in an effort to win every battle. Even the larger centers like St. John's, Mt. Pearl, CBS, and Paradise seem more intent on beating the other towns into submission rather than cooperating. Individual politicians use the bully method to get elected. We need an immediate systemic change to how government works in this province, but the leadership is not there to direct it.It seems that the most successful politicians are the ones who have the greatest sense of entitlement, and we keep on voting for them. Unfortunately, it will get worse before it gets better.

  • Ed Power
    May 04, 2013 - 16:52

    Well, this is depressing. Not a single comment about this topic. Where is the outrage?

  • Observer
    May 04, 2013 - 11:20

    Why should everything be government's responsibility? Why isn't there a discussion, a much-needed one at that, about the apparent CULTURE of throwing garbage out in the first place. It's not governmnent's responsibility. it's our collective and personal responsibility not to do it in the first place. Seems to me that we see our woods, streets, highways and waterways as convenient dumping grounds for every kind of trash imaginable and we always have done. Walk the woods and trails or even town roadways and they are littered with broken beer bottles. Rusted car wrecks often litter the gardens and driveways and seashores in towns all around the province. It's been ever thus! Our outdoors is so vast compared to other provinces that we just threw whatever we wanted to out there and didn't give a damn. Clearly the majority of people still carry on with this mindless disregard for the places in which we live.. What odds, they say.... Well, it's high time we see the problem for what it is, part of our culture. It is Newfoundland's dirty little secret but it's getting bigger and less a secret every day.