We need new ideas on how to handle this mess and change people's attitudes towards throwing litter on the ground. Canada is mostly clean compared to so many other places in the world. Cleaning up at this point is easy. Let us Keep Canada Clean so we don't end up with that enormous problem others are dealing with.
I've noticed that certain places are hot spots for litter. If you clean up an area like this up without public education and awareness, you are only erasing the symptom, not fixing the problem. You will have to go back over and over and over again to clean up, like a mommy who cleans up after her spoiled child.
If our city and volunteers did not already spend hours and hours cleaning up after people, we would be wading knee deep in garbage on every street in this part of Surrey. I am fortunate to have so many neighbors who pick up on the streets near my home. Nearby it is not the case so the ditches and open areas are spread liberally with garbage. If you see anywhere in the city that is clean, someone has cleaned up the litter and garbage. It's only a temporary fix that has to be repeated over and over again.
The schools are the places with the most direct connection to the families in that specific neighborhood. Society tells us education is so important but the schools are underfunded. Schools and their teachers are not given the respect they deserve and are underpaid and stressed, and have to cope with many more ESL students than ever before. But the schools, both elementary and secondary schools are crucial to changing future attitudes towards litter. I feel quite discouraged when I see litter lining the fence line of a school. I feel it shows lack of respect for the school and the students that are attending there. All students should be sent out into their own neighborhoods to pick up trash. This would make them more aware of the problem and learn that if you put garbage down, you have to pick it up. The city has started Clean Sweep events in conjunction with the RCMP which is a beginning, however a once a year cleanup is not enough to get the message through. It should be a normal and usual part of their school life and their parent's normal life to clean up their own neighborhood. Perhaps their parents would pick up the street in front of their house if they knew the school children would be there the next day.
Idea Number One
Campaign for a cleaner Canada. Politicians will tell you street side ad campaigns work, that is why we see so many election signs. What if we were campaigning for a Cleaner Canada?
Here's a photo of my prototype sign - a simple and clear message, inexpensive to produce and not a large expense if someone ruins it. Other options could be large banners for a chain link fence area which collects trash. Again these signs are meant to be temporary and could easily be moved around the city as needed.
I get frustrated when a site is cleaned up with no message to the public or people that live in that neighborhood and who most likely dumped the trash. It may be a mystery to them how the garbage disappears and they probably don't know who is picking it up, or possible aren't even aware of it. Litter has become a normal part of their landscape. This heap of clothes has now been outside this secondary school for at least 3 full months. No-one has picked it up, no-one has reported it to be picked up, so it lays there gathering more garbage.
I would like to see creating banners to be placed at schools or other locations which litter or garbage dumping is common. I know a few signs will not change anything, but if an event can be made of it, perhaps the message will stick in someone's mind.
Idea Number Two
We need more garbage bins. So many bustops, parks and walkways in Surrey currently do not have garbage bins. It is difficult to tell people to not litter if there is no garbage bin to put it in. The schools have now made garbage cans that I personally do not want to touch, as the opening is small and you have to push the messy area on the opening to get anything into the hole.
I know the city has a problem installing garbage bins because they are expensive and often vandalized. The bins are heavy and probably expensive and come at a cost to monitor and empty. Inexpensive temporary bins, could be installed easily. Campaign signs have a way of hanging around so we know they are sturdy. I could see these at many intersections where there is a collection of trash, where cars come to a stop and throw stuff out the window. Perhaps it would be a temporary installation at a specific intersection where the problem of litter is extreme. I think that if you can get this phrase into people's heads, they will think before they throw down.
Idea Number Three
Hold Keep Canada Clean Street Parties.
On Sunday, the City would go door to door to canvas the selected neighborhood. Knocking on doors, handing out a simple small flyer made of recycled paper with a simple message about the event.
They would then place the Keep Canada bins all along the street, maybe every 5 houses or so. These would remain on the Streets for one week. The bins would be a simple encouragement to pick up the street and any garbage you may see over the next week. It would also have the advertisement for the Street Party to be held the next Saturday.
During the week the school children would be sent out to put litter in the bins. The park is cleaned by the city, the children need to clean the streets. It would be an event accompanied by music, entertainment and fun. Perhaps entertainers acting as flag people to ensure their safety could accompany them on their parade through the streets of their neighborhood.
On the next Saturday, depending on the neighborhood a simple street party would be held. Anything that hadn't been picked up would be picked up. Beverages would be served. Music would be played. Simple entertainment would be tailored to that specific (fairly small block of houses) area's probable preferences. A weekend event is necessary as I realize most people are gone all week, from dark to dark and don't have much time for anything else but the basics.
Idea Number Four
Create Public Street Art to manage the tagging and graffiti on walls and fences in Surrey. Please visit the Street Art for Surrey Page to find out what we are doing to make this happen.
I think a Mehndi Design would be an effective and attractive cover up design for walls and fences that are often tagged. Stencils could be made and combined in various manners to make a pleasing design.
Idea Number Five
Technology should allow an garbage truck driver to geo-tag large items (couches, chairs, furniture) as they go through their regular route. The driver should be familiar with his route and be able to recognize abuse of the system and also tag that. Then the city can go around with a larger truck in an organized fashion instead of going back over and over again to the same neighborhood to pick up random items and then to pick up dumped items because someone put something in the garbage and the city didn't pick it up. Having to go to the recycle depot to dispose of an appliance or a TV or computer monitor only results in an enormous number of dumped electronics as everyone upgrades to bigger and better. People should be able to leave them curbside and have them picked up. Doing the right thing needs to be made simple and convenient, then you will get more people agreeing to clean up.
The Big Idea
People must be given information and encouragement not prohibition and penalties.