“Who do you think picks up after you when you throw your garbage out of your car or as you are walking down the road?”
This is the question Trish Parker, chair of Communities in Bloom (CIB) asks herself when she sees the garbage that lines the streets of Drumheller now the snow has melted.
Coffee cups, fast food wrappers, dog excrements, cigarette packets and many more unwanted waste items are revealed that people unlawfully dispose of.
As well as the Town of Drumheller spending resources every year during spring, many residents and businesses devote their time voluntarily to clean up Drumheller.
On Earth Day, every year, The Royal Tyrrell Museum organizes a trail trash challenge and sends some of their staff to clean up around the museum and its neighborhood trails.
“Over the last few years we have noticed that it has gone better so our effort is definitely making a difference," said Mike Dooley from The Royal Tyrrell Museum.
CIB, the Drumheller Institution Inside-Out program, the Inn at Heartwood and Encana also organize an Earth Day cleanup, inviting residents and businesses to join them.
This year, the museum is teaming up with other groups as well as downtown merchants and the Drumheller Dragons for the Earth Day cleanup, taking place on Thursday, April 22.
The idea is to challenge all residents and businesses to take part to help make Drumheller a garbage-free town.
“It is a great event, it is definitely a worth-while cause, everyone should work towards a cleaner community,” said Dooley.
A study by the University of British Columbia looked into the reason why people litter, their research points to several factors that may impact on littering behaviour:
- feeling that someone else (a hired litter picker) will pick it up.
- the gap between attitudes and behaviours (what people believe and what they do).
- number, placement and appearance of bins at or near the site.
- absence of realistic penalties or consistent enforcement.
- people thinking the item is not litter (eg. cigarettes, food scraps).
- people not being willing to look for a bin.
- lack of social pressure to do the right thing.
- lack of knowledge of the environmental effects of littering.
- amount of litter already present at a particular site.
- presence and wording of signs referring to litter.
- for some smokers, it has become an “accepted norm” to throw used cigarette butts on the ground.
Unless someone cleans up litter, its effects may be seen for years.
Did you know…
According to a study by the University of British Columbia, this is the time scale for some items to biodegrade:
- up to 5 months for cotton rags.
- between 2-5 months for paper.
- 6 months for orange peels.
- up to 12 years for cigarette butts.
- 5 years for plastic coated paper cartons.
- up to 20 years for plastic bags.
- up to 100 years for tin or aluminum cans.
- 450 years for plastic 6-pack holder rings
- 1 million years for glass bottles
- Forever for plastic bottles.
Darcy Nundahl, Community Enforcement supervisor for Drumheller, explained to inSide Drumheller, “littering is covered under the Alberta Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act…but it is pretty tough to enforce unless you actually catch people doing it.”
In fact, his figures show that in 2009 there were only 14 reported incidents to Community Enforcement and warnings issued.
Nundahl encourages people to report unlawful littering, and explains a complaint can be made online too, by going to www.dinosaurvalley.com/bylaw-enforcement-licensing. From there, people can access their “online reporting” system and as long as people are happy to testify, the complaint will be dealt with.
Some businesses devote resources to cleaning up other people’s garbage, such as the Drumheller McDonald's restaurant.
Brandi Schneider, owner, told inSide Drumheller “We send our staff around the block to pick up garbage as part of our regular routine.
We are equalling frustrated with people littering and this is why we provide so many garbage cans on our lot…I know that the perception is a lot of it is our food garbage because we send our people to pick up the trash, but it is all types of garbage, cigarette boxes, etc.
If you look at our parking lot, people will be right beside a garbage can and yet they will throw their garbage out of their vehicle. I want a clean Drumheller too.”
Tammi Nygaard, Drumheller Landfill operations manager, also feels strongly about littering and has tried to reduce the garbage on the highway which may come from vehicles’ unsecured loads going the landfill.
“A lot of people don’t secure their load when coming to the landfill,” she explains, “we try to be educational first and we implemented a surcharge for unsecured loads back in 2004.”
Alberta Transportation runs two programs to help with highway cleanup, the annual highway cleanup and the adopt-a-highway programs.
With the first program, any non-profit group can register their interest and be paid up to $100 per kilometre of highway cleaned, usually the first or second Saturday of May. The other program is on a voluntary basis.
Moh Ashraf, highway operations engineer for Alberta Transportation explained to inSide Drumheller, “the highway cleanup program originally was an educational program, so when people pick up the garbage, they realize,"if I am going to throw it out of the car window next time, somebody has to come and pick it up’, it is the tax payers money that is involved, we encourage kids from nine to get involved, so they can become educated when they grow up not to do this.”
Cleaning up litter has a cost. Every year, the efforts of volunteers who clean up Drumheller and the area are greatly appreciated.
However, if they did not have to clean up after others, that energy could be redirected to other projects to benefit the community.
All it takes is for people to put their trash in the right place.
If residents feel there is a shortage of trash cans in a particular area, the Town of Drumheller can be contacted to assess the area and a new trash can will be put in if they find there is a need.
For more info…
For details about Drumheller’s Earth Day Clean-up challenge, contact Trish at 403-823-0129.
For details about Alberta Transportation’s highway cleanup programs, contact Moh Ashraf at 780-415-1030.
Or log on to transportation.alberta.ca/605.htm