EDITORIAL: Trashington Street

Andrew Zwicker
By Andrew Zwicker
June 11th, 2009

Living nearby the high school and doing the majority of my commuting on foot, I end up walking up and down Washington Street at least two or three times a day. Every time I walk along the stretch running from RSS to Columbia Avenue I find myself more and more disgusted by the constant string of litter running up and down the hill to the point where I’d somewhat sarcastically suggest a name change on that portion of the street to Trashington Street.

Earlier this spring, around mid-March as the snow pack in town was melting I first thought about writing this story. I passed then, hoping that maybe the litter problem wasn’t as bad as it seemed and that what I was seeing was a whole winter’s worth of garbage now showing up as layer upon layer of rubbish appeared as one with the snow having melted away.

However, after recently stepping on a melted half Jersey Cream chocolate bar in my flip flops, I was inspired to put fingers to keyboard and vent my frustrations. I did an informal litter survey of the four block stretch from Columbia to RSS. The results? No less than 16 discarded Subway cups, 12 various types of pop cans, 35 tinfoil remnants of chocolate bars and other various confections, 22 napkins, 6 small milk cartons, 18 straws and uncountable other forms of plastic paper and unsightly trash. That’s over 100 individual pieces of garbage that I was able to count in a four block stretch of town.

Walking as I was during the lunch time break at RSS I was quite shocked to see one student deftly place and balance his Subway cup in the bushes along the west side of the road and keep walking after which I promptly picked it up and carried it down to the only garbage can along this stretch of road on the corner of First and Washington.

In a town that so often prides itself, often rightly, for having a strong environmental consciousness, I find it quite disheartening at our ability to deface our fine city by merely tossing our garbage aside. While not likely entirely the result of RSS students I would suspect given the nature of the garbage (largely fast food) and the bulk of the walking traffic on that stretch that a large percentage of it can be directly attributed to students.

Students and other litter critters alike may be interested to learn that as part of the city’s Traffic and Highways Bylaw that there is a $100 fine in place for those caught littering. Property owners along that stretch may also wish to take heed that fines of up to $10,000 exist as part of the good neighbour bylaw which requires property owners to not just keep their private property clean but also city boulevards in front of their property including sidewalks. While the likelihood of these bylaws ever being enforced is slim to nil with one part time bylaw officer patrolling the town the possibility does exist.

As for solutions to the problem the clear favourite, as in most any situation, would be that of personal responsibility and pride in one’s city: simply do not litter in the first place. Alternately, civic-minded Rosslanders might consider picking up after those who seem to not have the strength to carry a piece of plastic or a paper cup two blocks to the nearest garbage bin. I tend to not put much faith in these options. Perhaps RSS could make it a priority to instil some education in students about pride of place and environmental consciousness?

More practical might be the installation of more garbage bins along this troublesome route. Currently, there is one bin at the corner of Columbia and Washington and another bin at the corner of 1st and Washington. As there were numerous tin cans along the route a recycling bin somewhere along the route might not be such a bad idea either. Currently, the concrete circular structure surrounding the fire hydrant on the corner of Third and Washington seems to be acting as a trash disposal unit. Maybe this is the students’ attempt at crying out for the city to provide a place for them to throw their trash?

Beyond that, waste disposal options are limited for would-be litterers. Assigning our bylaw officer to randomly cruise this stretch during the RSS lunch hour to inform students of the $100 fine for littering or simply provide a deterrent presence may help. I’m certainly not suggesting we actually start handing out tickets to teenagers, but at least inform them that they could be fined and put a bit of fear into them that may cause them to think twice before casually tossing their Subway cups aside. Interestingly enough, after enquiring at city hall as to what bylaws or penalties exist around littering, the front desk clerk suggested that she would ask the bylaw officer to check out that area every so often.

For the rest of us who are proud to live in a beautiful town, may I suggest that whenever we walk down Washington–or any other street for that matter–we do our part to beautify our city by picking up a piece of trash or two and disposing of it properly. After my walk today I can proudly report that the street is now cleaner by as many cups as I could carry in my hands at once; sadly, however, my efforts only made a small dent in the debris.

We should be embarrassed about this dirty street running through the centre of our town. Let’s raise a drink to making an extra effort to clean up our beloved Washington Street… and then promptly recycle that can, glass or carton before it ends up in a gutter or sidewalk.

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