As symbolism goes, garbage packs a pretty potent wallop. The outside workers’ strike of aught-nine, with its mountains of festering garbage piling up in city parks, is often seen as a symbol of the beginning of the end of the David Miller regime. In too deep with the unions, handed them the key to the vault, kick the bums out!
The veracity of that interpretation of events is contestable but the effect the strike had on the election seems pretty straightforward. Garbage stinks. As a politician, don’t put yourself in a position where you could be covered with garbage, even figuratively.
So how to take the news that garbage clean up in the city costs us about $25 million annually, according to staff? Here we are, always eagle-eyed about how City Hall spends our hard-earned tax money, literally (litterly?) throwing millions of dollars onto our streets every year. “If nobody littered in the city, that’s potentially $25 million in savings,” claims Robert Orpin, the director of collection operations.
$25 million? That’s more than double the amount we’re told we save from having contracted out waste collection in the western half of the city in 2011. Simply by not just throwing trash on the ground.
Which, as the snow recedes from our sidewalks and curbsides, reveals we do a lot.
I am of the vintage who remembers firsthand the PR push to get people to stop littering. Give a hoot! Don’t pollute! Or the tear-shedding Native American, Keep American Beautiful! We laugh now at the Mad Men episode where the Drapers just shake their picnic blanket free of debris onto the park grass. Ron Burgundy and friends tossing their fast food wrappers on the ground as they stroll down the street.
That was a thing we might’ve thought had been relegated to the… ahem, ahem… the dustbin of history. Evidently not, judging by the flotsam and jetsom strewn about the place, manifesting itself most every spring. When did we stop giving a hoot?
There’s more to it, obviously, then just people littering. Anyone walking around the city, especially at the end of a weekend, can tell you about inadequate receptacles along the street, the ones you do encounter, stuffed already to overflowing. Or broken bins. Mr. Orpin claims that bins are serviced once a week although all it takes is a few hours of non-functioning along a busy stretch of street and garbage has become unsightly litter.
On Tuesday, Mayor Tory suggested the city should be “collecting things more often” and was going to look into it. That’s fine, as far as it goes, but ultimately comes down to spending more money. And we don’t like spending more money now, do we.
So here’s the thing. We, as residents, could actively contribute to reducing spending by not throwing our shit on the ground as we move around the city. Relying on by-law enforcement passes the buck. What’s the cost-benefit ratio to having enough officers in place to be able to catch people in the act of littering? We could park one outside every bar and restaurant in town and put an end to cigarette butt flinging in a minute but would it be a good way to spend money?
Never mind the cigarette butts but how many of us have seen someone walk out of a convenience store with a new pack of smokes, unwrap the cellophane and fling it aside like nobody’s business? And gum? Who the fuck just spits out their gum on the ground when it loses its flavor? What are you, 4 years-old?
Ultimately, what’s it symbolize about us as citizens that we complain loudly of paying taxes for the general upkeep of our city but, apparently, don’t have much of an issue with making the city clean up after us because we’re too lazy or distracted to take care of our own garbage?
— filthily submitted by Cityslikr
It’s a cultural issue as much as it’s an attitude. When I visited London in 2006 for the first time, I was taken aback by the obvious lack of garbage receptacles on the sidewalk and in public spaces. When I inquired why, I was told it dated back to the 70s and 80s and the IRA bombing campaign. The garbage bins were all removed and were never re-installed. This begged the obvious question (at least from me) of “what do you do with your garbage and litter?” I was told to take it home or to the office with me! A rather sensible and effective solution I thought and another application of the law of unintended consequences.
In Japan there is no litter, no cigarette buts anywhere, absolutely nowhere. There are no garbage bins either. When I asked what do people do with their litter I was told that “we are polite, we take it home”. It would be too embarrassing for a Japanese person to be seen leaving litter behind. The lack of any litter was the most remarkable experience in my trip to Japan.
I’ll add to the pile, people who think winters snow will conceal their pets poop, so they won’t need to stoop and scoop. I don’t even own a dog and have probably 6 or 7 good piles that were deposited over the last month or so on my lawn.
I have heard Paris has a problem with dog poop, owners refusing to look after their pets waste, is just disgusting.
I wouldn’t even toss a bidegradeable apple core on the street.