By Wayne Litke
During my trips to Ontario and British Columbia to visit relatives (Angela’s or mine), one thing has always been consistent and this year it seems to be more conspicuous than ever. However, it may just be that I have the time to be a little more observant than previous years or perhaps people are becoming more inconsiderate and more stupid, if that is possible.
I am going to relay few actual situations that we encountered. Since we have a truck with a camper, we pull over and rest or have a meal whenever the time is right. However, obviously many other people have had the same idea before us and frequented the same side roads and rest areas. Unfortunately, they have also (without exception) left a wide variety of calling cards behind in the way of litter and garbage. Even in remote areas, litter was observed at every stop. In fact, at one road an animal carcass (complete with hide) had been left the previous fall to rot in the middle of the access. Litter which was strewn into the trees included a large cooler that was full of food floating in rain water. During another stop, the insulation from copper wire had been dumped on the ground and left for Mother Nature to take care of. Adjacent to the dump site was an old road with signs of recent activity. Fifty feet down the road was another personal dumping zone with everything from shotgun shells to household waste to an old television. Somehow, it just seems wrong to have a squirrel using a TV as an observation post.
To my utter surprise, we also discovered household waste at two very remote areas. The perpetrators did not want the garbage at their house and were too lazy to take it to a landfill. The waste included a kitchen counter, shingles, bag of leaves and wood scraps. Aside from the shingles, most of it could have been burned.
At Lac Klotz in northern Ontario we were treated to an interesting experience. Angela and I had stopped at a nice-looking roadside rest area for lunch. I went exploring along the waterfront while my wife prepared a light meal. I could not help but notice how the shoreline was marred with litter every 20 to 30 feet. Being from the prairies, I know how easy it is for the wind to suddenly blow a paper plate off a table or send a plastic cup rolling across a parking lot. However, the shore was littered with a variety of trash and the trees and shrubs graciously concealed tissue paper that was likely used for bathroom purposes. The strange thing is the site had four very good public toilets, yet people had felt compelled to use the trees by the lake as a bathroom. The only explanation I could imagine is the public washrooms had been fouled by patrons who had little regard for the next person, so the trees became an alternative to using a dirty bathroom.
While finishing lunch, I observed a trucker begin the short descent to the lake. He had a small bag of garbage in one hand and walked past two garbage bins before reaching the two bins closest to our camper. He tried to open one bin, but was unsuccessful since it was animal-proof and required the operator to lift a tab up inside the handle so the lid would open. The can was obviously idiot proof as a well since the guy with the garbage could not figure out how to open it. Instead of looking our way and asking how to open the steel container, he disappeared over a hill and into the trees. A few minutes later he reappeared and was not carrying his garbage bag.
I called out to the individual and said the garbage bins would open if he lifted the tab inside the lid. He pretended not to understand, but he clearly knew what I said when I asked, “Where did you put your garbage, in the trees?” He went back to the garbage can – this time to the rear of the bin – and successfully opened the door where the garbage is removed. He disappeared into the bush a second time and returned with his garbage which was then successfully placed in a trash bin.
Thankfully, we have also seen people who truly care about our world and recycle everything possible, even in remote areas where the mentality of many people (residents and visitors) tends to be one of out of sight, out of mind. The most recent situation occurred on Miscou Island at the northern tip of New Brunswick. We stopped at Camping La Vague and received written instructions in English which was appreciated since most of the Acadian residents speak French. The instructions explained which items could be recycled and which could not and our information package included a clear bag for all recyclable containers.
The worst aspect of garbage and poor or incorrect disposal methods is waste will linger for hundreds of years. Hiding waste or putting it out of sight does not eliminate the problem. Instead it pollutes and leaves a sad legacy for our children and future generations. As the waste we generate increases in volume and toxicity, we must personally take more responsibility for the waste we each generate, manage and dispose of. It starts at home and our control measures should show respect for our neighbours, streets, roads, highways and every area we travel.