The problem of littering

There is no doubt that littering is a habitual practice for many and a serious problem in Mississippi Mills. Everywhere you go, you see evidence of this. From discarded drink tins to candy wrappers; dog feces to car tires. There is clearly a climate of non-caring toward the beauty of our surroundings. And there seems to be a lack of recognition that practice of discarding one’s refuse could only leave the municipality in a most unsightly condition. It is fortunate, but not totally fair, that there are people willing to pick up the garbage left behind by others. This provides a degree of mitigation. However, it is not enough, and the problem should not have to be left to those who care.

The question arises as to how this can be corrected. I see two possibilities.

The first is education. From the start, we need to educate our children not to litter and why they should not litter. This can come in various forms, some of which have already been tried. A year or two ago, a campaign was held on the subject of plastic bags which can too often be found clinging to bushes and other prime targets around Town. The emphasis of this campaign combined the need for a reduction in the use of plastic bags with the need for their proper disposal. Currently, with support from the town, the musical Trashdance, is being shown at various schools and the Almonte Old Town Hall. We need to continue this process with an ongoing program of awareness, asking litterers to seek out places they can dispose of their waste, rather than simply dropping them wherever they are.

The second relates to the availability of alternatives. The municipality, to its credit, is in the process of acquiring and equipping public spaces with trash cans. More will be funded by the proceeds of the Trashdance production. But this will never be sufficient to cover the whole community. It would help greatly if local private and semi-public facilities that are beyond the reach of municipal forces were to also join the effort. It seems such facilities have still failed to recognize the impact the provision of trash cans can have, not only on their own property but beyond, and it is time they provided refuse containers at the entrances to their premises. And one way to express neighbourliness in a positive way, would be for them to be prepared to accept any kind of appropriately packaged trash at their receptacles, including pet feces. Unannounced removal of receptacles, previously provided, would be particularly insensitive, and should especially be discouraged.

Perhaps, it is time these facilities, and commercial establishments as well, were required by law to provide trash cans outside their premises. Ultimately, of course, provision of containers allowing for the separation of recyclables from trash, should be a goal.

One can expect our young people to continue only so far before yielding to the temptation to just discard an item they may have in hand. Perhaps if we have a built-up awareness, together with adequate alternatives for disposal, we will finally stand a chance to make a difference in our littering habits.

Peter Moller