More than 600 cigarette butts littered the ground along Elgin St. between Gilmour and MacLaren streets on Sunday, April 6, 2014 and as more snow melts the problem will only get worse. JESSIE ARCHAMBAULT/Ottawa Sun/QMI AGENCY
Our front-page story today by Jessie Archambault on cigarette butt litter reminded me of a column a couple of years ago by Anthony Furey.
Pretty bang on, I think.
You really don’t realize how much people litter until spring when all the grossness is revealed during the snowmelt.
Here’s that Furey column…
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Are litterbugs lazy, stupid, inconsiderate or all three?
The city is spending $5 million a year picking up the garbage residents leave lying around. How can this be? I asked. Surely you’re not all such scofflaws that you’re wilfully dirtying up our city. It dawned on me that maybe many of you just don’t know what litter is. So out of love for my tarnished city, I offer you a crash course on trash I always see lying about that maybe you don’t realize is litter:
Smokers must think they operate in a different reality than the rest of us. We’ve all seen it : Someone finishes a smoke, tosses it to the ground, stamps it out (if they even do that), then just walk away. But I’m sure if you ever called them out on it, they’d give you a big FU. Would they be as ballsy to respond so if you called them out for throwing away a pop can? Probably not. So why the self-righteousness? It takes up to 15 years for a butt to decompose. They’re litter. Oh, and by the way, so is the plastic wrappings people toss to the wind and the whole damn package you often see discarded on the bus or on a park bench.
Gum on the sidewalk or under a park bench takes times and money to scrape off. But people think if they just spit out their gum it’s small enough it won’t matter. Well what if thousands of people do it regularly? It adds up.
Bank machines are always surrounded by discarded bank receipts. This one is especially irksome because it’s blatantly unnecessary. First of all, most machines give you the option of whether you even get one printed or not. Second, there’s always a garbage right at the machine for you to place the receipt in. And why on earth would you want to leave your account number and balance lying around for people to see?
People who are obsessed with their pets want animals to be given greater legal rights than humans, but also want their animals exempt from abiding by all laws. This includes dog poo. I don’t care how wonderful your dog is, his poo isn’t some magic elixir to charm the neighbourhood with. It needs to be picked up. The absolute worst is when someone does pick up the poo in a plastic bag and then just leaves the plastic bag lying around in the park or on the sidewalk. Right, because leaving a plastic bag lying around isn’t littering.
Not all food items compost quickly. And even if they do, that doesn’t mean leaving them in the middle of a park garden isn’t littering. It actually takes a banana peel two years to decompose. Put your food waste in the bin with the rest of the garbage.
The “free stuff ” box you place out on the sidewalk in front of your house is litter. It’s garbage. If it wasn’t, you wouldn’t be putting it out there. You all know what I’m talking about. When you pass by a house and there’s a cardboard box with the word “free” written in black Sharpie. Whenever I pass by one I always see the same stupid items that no one would ever want: A child’s place mat with stains on it, a copy of a Windows DOS programming manual from the early 1980s and a rusted metal can opener. If you put these out on any day other than garbage day, you’re littering. If you don’t bring in the box after it’s become clear no one wants your crap, you’re littering.
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Take these lessons to heart and maybe we’ll save ourselves a bit of coin and pretty up the old town while we’re at it.
Follow City Hall reporter Jon Willing on Twitter at @JonathanWilling and at ottawasun.com.