Driftwood’s Streets of Salt Spring columnist DW Salty has embarked on an exciting clean-up campaign during April, and we’re hoping the entire island will join in picking up the trash before Earth Day arrives on April 22.
Under the provincial Adopt a Highway program, volunteer groups can register for a two-kilometre stretch of highway. They pick up the trash, and the ministry’s contractors will then pick up and dispose of filled bags left on the roadside. Salt Spring Lions kept this program going for many years in partnership with youth sports teams but had to stop due to provincial government liability concerns. That’s left a gap that we hope local groups will take it upon themselves to fill.
Our campaign was partly inspired by islander Kit Lewis, who visited the Driftwood office recently to express concern about the litter she has noticed along Salt Spring’s every highway and byway, and to ask if the paper couldn’t do something positive about it. As Lewis’ daughter remarked on a visit from Montana, she doesn’t see that kind of garbage where she lives.
It was a request that struck a chord for this reporter, at least. Last April when I put my bike back on the road for the dry season, I started noticing an incredible number of littered cups, cans and bottles all along North End Road from where I live, close to the intersection with North Beach Road, to Central.
I kept wanting to pick things up, but stopping every 10 feet on the commute to work isn’t practical. Nor is trying to ride laden with a garbage bag. (I do pick up everything I see on morning dog walks and treks to the mailbox.)
In truth, I was also hoping someone else would do the harder work. Perhaps people doing community service through the justice system? No such luck, and the litter only continued to pile up through the summer and fall.
With time off during spring break last week, I decided to take a garbage bag with me for a longer walk with my dog from my house to Fernwood Road and back, around 2.7 km each way. I had to abandon my first full bag a little after the turn-around point and come back with the car to collect it. I enlisted my son for round two the following day. We ended up with the equivalent of two full bags in total.
Perhaps the most annoying thing about the litter we collected was most of it was recyclable — a service islanders pay for through property taxes but has no user fee when dropped off. Around 75 per cent of the roadside litter we saw could have been recycled if it hadn’t gone through the mower. The other thing is the more litter one sees, the more it is normalized. Unless it has the opposite effect and enrages you, why not throw that empty coffee cup out the window when everyone else is doing it?
Some observations from my walk:
• Salt Spring has an alarming number of people who literally drink and drive. The vast majority of littered items held alcohol drinks.
• Based on drink choice, litterers include every taste profile and demographic, from Lucky Lager to craft cider.
• Coffee cups may biodegrade over time, but the timeframe might be several years. Lids clearly don’t.
• Some types of plastic shopping bags do break down over time. If they do, they probably have used kitty litter in them.
• Dogs don’t appreciate stopping every 10 feet on a walk if they’re not the one making the call.
• North End Road has far, far, far more weekday traffic than I ever imagined.
We’re asking islanders to clean up litter in a special clean-up push this month. The experience will hopefully be more than a one-off, though, and inspire people to join the official Adopt a Highway program through the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
Neighbourhood POD groups are ideally positioned to test their communication chain and take ownership of their own streets during the campaign. The island’s many organizations, clubs and guilds are another potential resource. Elementary schools may not be able to take to the streets due to liability concerns, but they can help by cleaning up their own grounds. A new Ganges “local village committee” is embarking on their own Earth Day clean-up campaign; businesses along Rainbow, Upper Ganges, Fulford-Ganges and Vesuvius Bay roads can also get active.
Let the Driftwood know if you want to get involved and we’ll publish all the participants’ names and contributions in the paper and on social media over the next few weeks. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 250-537-9933 or drop in to the office at 328 Lower Ganges Rd.
We’ll also announce awards for who collected the most garbage and how much was collected in total as part of the Earth Day festival on April 22.