Let’s Pick It Up, Salt Spring campaign launches

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Salt Spring Islanders are once again getting their gloves out and mapping territory in their neighbourhoods for an island-wide litter clean-up effort led by the Driftwood.

Our inaugural campaign in 2018 during the three weeks in April leading up to Earth Day (April 22) was a hit. The follow-up in 2019 was an even greater success as the word was now out. Families, groups and individuals took pride in bringing roadsides and beaches back to pristine condition.

With the global pandemic declared just a few weeks before our 2020 campaign would have been due to start, we felt we needed to take a pause last year. But that doesn’t mean islanders frustrated by litter stopped their own pick-up efforts. As we kick off our 2021 “Let’s Pick it Up, Salt Spring” campaign this week, we’d like to acknowledge the many people who take time to pick up litter all through the year.

Downtown business owners who have embraced the do-it-yourself approach include Eric Booth and John Fraser, who recently undertook power washing and muck removal at the Centennial Park plaza on their own initiative. Booth has also installed cigarette receptacles near the park, since non-smoking bylaws don’t seem to be enforced there. 

According to Fraser, cigarette butts are a major source of the litter being cleaned up downtown. 

Andrea and Derek Sowden caused a buzz last month when they were spotted cleaning up along Vesuvius Bay Road between the Tripp and Chu An intersections. Some people were so surprised and impressed by their citizen service they wanted to come back and help.

“We have issues with our garbage here on Salt Spring. There have been for a long time,” Andrea Sowden said. “The Burgoyne triangle is disgusting, the Cusheon Lake Road pullout is quite gross, the Blackburn Road turn-off is quite gross and the old Fulford Inn site can be quite something.”

Vesuvius Bay Road was the second litter drive the Sowdens have spearheaded this spring. They did another bigger clean-up with members of their Baha’i faith community at the end of February, pulling a whopping 25 bags of trash off Fulford-Ganges Road between the 600 block and Salt Spring Way.

Andrea Sowden is a school bus driver, which is part of the reason she initiated that particular clean-up.

“I drive past there four or five times a day, and I just couldn’t stand it anymore,” she said. “It was getting worse and worse.”

Sowden said most of the garbage her group collected in that location was plastics and food containers. She believes things probably fly out of people’s trucks on their way to the Salt Spring Garbage Services transfer station on Blackburn Road. 

With the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure responsible for roads on the island, ministry road maintenance contractors will keep the roadway clear of impediments, but there are no municipal staff or equivalents responsible for picking up trash on the roadside. The ministry does have an adopt-a-highway program for groups of volunteers, but those groups must carry their own general liability insurance and volunteers cannot be younger than 12 years old. Salt Spring Lions Club had to give up a program of sponsoring sports teams and other youth groups to pick up litter a few years ago because of those restrictions.

Sowden said she pulls broom from the roadside every year on Vesuvius Bay Road near her home and noticed a proliferation of litter there this year, possibility because of COVID-19. In this case the Sowdens mainly picked up liquor and beer cans and bottles. But she’s also noticed the north end school bus loop, including North End Road and Sunset Drive, can be bad for things like vodka drink cans and disposable coffee cups.

Sowden is old enough to remember a massive provincial highway campaign with signs saying “Don’t Be a Litterbug” and she feels it wouldn’t hurt to have similar messages at the ferry terminals. But on-the-ground action from residents is probably the most effective solution, she said.

“This is a self-help island — you have to do it yourself,” she said. “There’s so much energy out there. It’s just a matter of tapping into it. And I find when people do service in that way, it makes them happier.”

Laurie’s Garbage and Recycling is once again sponsoring the Driftwood’s April litter clean-up campaign and will supply garbage bags and coupons for garbage disposal to people who register with us. (Participants are asked to please respect the fact these coupons are not for personal household garbage.) Please call us at 250-537-9933 or email news@gulfislandsdriftwood.com to sign up for a specific area to clean up sometime this April. People are also encouraged to send in photos of themselves or others during their outings! Use the #letspickitupsaltspring hashtag on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

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