Mowing over litter - municipalities do it. Private contractors do it. And willfully blind people in homes do it and for the life of me, I can’t figure out why they cut the grass without combing out the litter first. Instead of one item now these poorly skilled mowing magicians have turned each piece of loose litter into dozens of shreds. The problem here is twofold. 1) People who believe in clean vistas have ten times as much work to do when removing the litter. 2) The litter fragments travel more easily into sewer grates and into water systems, exactly the last place we want them. Microplastics cocktail, anyone?
If I had one wish it would be for mandatory litter removal prior to mowing grass.
Now that vaccine mandates are trending, let's have an anti-litter mandate, something I’ve wanted to see for many years. i.e. People told if they litter there are consequences. If caught by dedicated environmental officers, they could choose: pay a fine or go to Litter School to learn the reasons for not littering and how not to litter. They’d sign a pledge not to litter. How embarrassing would it be to have it known that you had to attend Litter School to avoid paying a fine because you didn't know enough to use a garbage can or an ashtray?
If education proves hopeless, a second offence would command a fine. Mandating people not to litter would do an enormous amount of good for the environment since littering is identified worldwide as a monumental problem.
This takes me to my next bugaboo. Public apathy, people who don’t help. Even if you don’t litter, if you don’t pick up, sadly, you are part of the littering problem. Do get out there and volunteer because that’s an essential part of the remedy. I used to be one of those people who felt I had no obligation to pick up someone else's discards because I myself never litter. Then I realized that this attitude posed a barrier to solving the litter problem because to not pick up actually compounds it. Litter begets litter.
And lastly, let me rail about something that happened to my friend and her octogenarian husband at a children’s splash pad in Toronto. They’re out for a walk and there’s no activity save for two casual city workers sitting on a bench doing nothing. There is litter on the site. My friend observes litter and rightly and politely suggests that the employees put the strewn items in the city-provided receptacle on site to tidy the play area. They refuse because they say doing so could give them COVID-19. False. When told that's not factual, they counter that they are “entitled to their beliefs”. Then they say it’s someone else’s job - false again, in my view. Yes, it is their job. No, they can’t get COVID from touching inanimate objects.
Any employee of the city of Toronto, particularly in parks and recreation, has an obligation to live by an anti-litter mandate and pick up litter as part of his or her job on public property. These two divas left it to an 80-year-old man to pick up the stuff. Mr. Mayor, can’t you do something about employee education and spur some action on the mowing-over-litter bedlam? As a start toward a real litter strategy? Please?
Responses to litter have to be all-involving and the problem communicated well across the board, including by the media. In a future post I'll talk about media as an ally in the fight against litter and how they can improve their coverage.