Sooke has a dirty little problem.
Not a problem you say? It’s worse than you probably think.
A recent study suggests Canadians produce more garbage per capita than any other country on Earth. Each Canadian generates approximately 2.7 kilograms of garbage each day.
We see the problem everyday in Sooke.
Trash in the streets gets blown into the sewer system. From there, it clogs up the sewers and waterways or flows out into the harbour. Chemicals and toxins from plastic bottles leech into the water systems.
Animal get tangled in six-pack rings, cut on jagged metal or broken glass and stuck inside containers. When food waste is littered from a vehicle, it attracts animals to the road, where they get into traffic and can quickly become road kill, damaging your car.
Littered open containers hold water, a great breeding place for mosquitoes.
The most littered items in the world are cigarette butts. Cigarette butts may be small, but they’re not harmless. The glass fibre in the filters contains toxic chemicals that end up in storm drains, which eventually lead to our waterways. The second most littered item is fast food wrappers, followed by beer and soda cans (which in a perfect world would all be recycled).
But you’ve probably heard this before.
What if I told you there were economic effects from litter too? For example, houses in littered neighborhoods sell for less money than those in unlittered neighbourhoods. Cleaner communities have a better chance of attracting new businesses, residents, and tourists. Moreover, much of what is thrown away or littered could be recycled and is a lost resource.
In the past, Sooke’s been lucky with groups and individuals willing to put their best foot forward to help keep the town clean. That luck might be changing.
Groups like Zero Waste Sooke held an annual clean up, but that was cancelled last spring due to a lack of volunteers, and community litter-busting hero Sifu Moonfist, who worked diligently for years sweeping and picking up litter, is now too ill to continue the job.
Yet, the litter continues to pile up in small ways, which produces big problems.
I’m a committed walker, hiker, runner, and sometimes plogger (a combination of jogging and picking up litter), and I’m amazed on the amount of garbage that’s strewn along our roadways and in places as far flung as the Sooke Hills, everything from cigarette packages and candy wrappers to clothing and construction materials. (Oh, did I mention the dog poop on sidewalks).
Is Sooke different from any other Canadian town or city? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do something about it.
My late friend Dawn Humphries made collecting litter and trash a part of her daily routine. Humphries, an East Sooke resident, would walk to the local coffee shop and along the way pick up illegally disposed coffee cups and promptly place them in a trash can. On her daily walk, no cigarette butt or discarded pop can was safe.
Do you want to be a responsible citizen? Just pick up the litter.
You can collect litter when you see it, take responsibility for keeping the area around your home clean, keep a trash bag in your car so that trash doesn’t find its way to the ground on its way from the car to a trash can, invest in a stainless steel or plastic water bottle — and don’t flick cigarette butts.
Kevin Laird is editor of the Sooke News Mirror. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.