More than a year ago I was excited to tell my readers that Ontario had finally taken a step toward addressing a long-ignored, province-wide litter problem. You'll see what I said then at the end of this post.
When I pushed the previous Liberal government to consider a review of it's approach to littering in 2012 I was mocked in some circles. So when it looked as though Ontario under the Conservatives was about to get serious, I was jubilant. The joy didn't last. As I started digging, I found there was no real plan for litter action and to my mind, this is still the case.
An #ActONlitter social media campaign was unveiled on May 12, an inaugural Day of Action on Litter, hobbled by group cleanups knocked out by COVID-19. My former high hopes were now down the well. I had to write the Minister responsible, MPP Jeff Yurek. (He was not the environment minister who announced Ontario's litter intentions back in March 2019. That guy, Rod Phillips, is now the finance minister of downward spiraling deficits. You think he maybe wishes he was still minister of golf courses and campsites?) My email Inbox surprised me just yesterday with a thank-you from Minister Yurek and his Parliamentary Assistant, a result of my pestering staff to put me on the MECP media list. So first here's the Minister's lovely form letter, followed by my comeback.
On May 12, 2020, we celebrated Ontario’s first Provincial Day of Action on Litter and I want to thank you for your participation and support that helped make it such a great success.
We saw an overwhelming amount of participation through Twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms. It was an incredible demonstration of how people across the province can come together in support of creating a cleaner Ontario for today and for future generations.
Thank you for taking the time to recognize the Day of Action on Litter and help spread the word through your channels. On the first day alone, there were over 500 downloads of the participation guide and social assets, with a digital audience reach of nearly 2 million people. Our hashtag #actONlitter was also a top-10 trending topic on Twitter in Ontario, and #13 in Canada.
While we have postponed public and corporate cleanups until later this year to support physical distancing efforts, our hope is that these events can take place during Waste Reduction Week, from October 19 to 25, 2020. We look forward to working with you again closer to the fall in preparation for these cleanups. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please email ActONLitter@ontario.ca.
Thank you again for your support.
Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks
Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks
May 26, 2020
Dear Minister Yurek,
While I do sincerely appreciate your thank-you note regarding the Day of Action on Litter, I am writing to express my overall disappointment in MECP’s #ActONlitter campaign and corresponding website.
On March 10, 2019 my publication, “Litterland”, hailed your government’s decision to place a focus on litter and develop a strategy. (Please see attachment.) I participated in your consultation process, also wrote to you directly and, subsequently, have exchanged several emails with your staff.
My goal is to see that MECP uses the opportunity it has created to put forward the best possible litter awareness program. I still have many unanswered questions about your Ministry’s approach to litter prevention. As someone very familiar with model programs from around the world, I regret that Ontario’s falls well short of what is desirable for litter prevention education.
I am providing a critique of #ActONlitter on the assumption that you would want feedback as Ontario’s environment minister and would want your staff or the ad agency to make changes to the web page and participation guide to better reflect a focus on litter prevention.
Litter, which is ‘non-“end of life”’ waste, is not covered within your legal framework for Extended Producer Responsibility. Along with an offering of expertise in this brief critique, based on the idea of creating a relevant and effective presence, I continue to ask that ‘LITTER’ appear as a word on the MECP home page and that it links to an upgraded litter content-rich site. It just seems like such an obvious and easy thing to do. May I please know if it cannot be done, why that is so?
In formulating a critique of the newly launched ontario.ca/actonlitter, I sought added input from a veteran creator of award-winning solid waste campaigns.
Critique of #ActONlitter page
- dull, fails to live up to its title “Day of Action on Litter”
- web page lacks litter facts, stats, images - Easy to find, why not include?
- lacks cultural diversity and multilingualism
- lacks specific references to litter types: cigarettes, chewing gum, beverage containers, polystyrene, food wrappers, coffee cups, plastics, packaging, balloons, fireworks
- nor does the site speak to those who use such products directly with facts about proper disposal, hazards related to each litter type and warnings about consequences for littering.
- dog waste and spitting warrant same attention as PPE.
- good tips on reduce, reuse and correct waste sorting, but these monopolize the page. They should be a sidebar.
- images/info relating to littering should be the main event. Provide links to other external sites too.
- “To be launching a May 12 action day without promotion and time to organize litter pickup activities tells me this province is not serious about eliminating litter.” This was my colleague’s comment, and I couldn’t agree more.
I would like to liaise with the staff lead responsible for organizing activities associated with future Days of Action on Litter. And may I please know what your comprehensive plan actually is for dealing with litter 365 days a year?
In closing, Minister, all I hope to gain here is your assurance that MECP will re-tool its thinking about the #ActONlitter web page and will work to make the entire program more helpful and meaningful to the cause, starting with your acknowledgment that Ontario’s environment ministry should have the word “litter” on its home page and content that matches the importance of the subject. I’d like to use your answers in a future article and blog post.
Again, thank you for your note of appreciation. I look forward to your reply.
Founder, Litter Prevention Program
WITH COVID-19 ON EVERYONE'S MIND, NOW MORE THAN EVER, CLEAN IS COOL!