profile of a litterbug

This isn’t quite the post I’d intended to write this morning. I was planning to begin wrapping up our week of bioblitzing. However, the “litterbug” topic seemed to want to be addressed, so that’s how it goes.

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, Don and I volunteered to do some trail maintenance and clean-up at the 300+ hectare (800 acres) Ferguson Forestry Centre. If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you’ll know that Don and I often hike at FFC as it’s quite close to home and is easily worked into our weekend grocery shopping foray. The natural sections of the forestry centre are some of the most interesting and diverse woodland habitat in the immediate region.

The clean-up day was organized by the Friends of the Ferguson Forest Centre. The turn-out of volunteers was excellent — about 40 people showed up to volunteer for everything from picking up trash to removing obstructions from trails. Each team was given a map and a report sheet and asked to mark off such things as footbridges or boardwalks in need of repair, trash objects too large to be easily removed, places that would benefit by having a trash can in place, etc…. Don and I worked as a team and our first assignment was to clean up around the pumping station building and also close off a section of trail where the foot bridge was in need of major repair work. I now suspect we were assigned this site as we looked like unshockable types who could deal with any unsavory trash that we might encounter. That was probably a wise move on the part of the coordinator.

So, equipped with jumbo trash bags, we drove down to the pumping station and began to clean up around the building and the nearby shoreline of Kemptville Creek that passes by at the edge of a grassy lawn. Here’s a shot of Don picking up fallen branches and trash below the towering Red Pines.

Okay, so, what about that bright-eyed grinning fellow in top photo? Well, I found him on the lawn beside the shoreline where I spent quite a bit of time fishing glass and plastic bottles and other trash out of the river (Kemptville Creek is more a river than a creek at that point). As we continued cleaning up around the building, I decided that Mr. Skull Head was a suitable mascot as he expressed just the right degree of malevolence for how I was beginning to feel toward the resident litterbug who must hang out at that location. After an hour or so of picking up discarded objects, I began to fit together a profile of whoever-it-is that likes to hang out around that spot. First, based on the wrappers and cans in evidence, this litterbug lives on Glossettes (those chocolate covered raisins), and sardines. He drinks Tim Hortons coffee, Jack Daniels whiskey (probably mixed with canned Pepsi), and Old Milwaukee — at least, we assume so, from what remained of the labels on the bottles smashed against the pumping station wall. Oh, and he seems to go through an inordinate number of pens which are tossed here and there. In addition, as is often the case at such locations, the Trojan Company was well represented. No wonder Trojan stamps its name all over its wrappers – hey! they make for some good advertising when strewn about a lawn or a parking area (not!). Needless to say, this part of the clean-up day was kind of annoying and gross, but we soon filled the garbage bags and moved on to the more pleasant tasks.

We spent the next couple or so hours checking trails, snipping back overhanging, potentially eye-poking branches, and moving trip-over-and-fall obstructions. Removing trail hazards is something we try to take time to do wherever we hike as we know that maintenance on almost all trails usually falls to a very small number of dedicated volunteers who are often spread far too thin. As we use the trails, we figure that it’s only fair that we spend some of our time keeping them in decent shape.

After finishing up our second section of trails, we straggled back to the forestry office just as the FFFC was closing up their operations for the day. For our troubles, we were given a couple of fine little White Spruce trees (see below) which we’ll plant today to take advantage of the recent rains. I did shoot some other photos while we were hiking around — I did a mini-bioblitz while clearing trails — so I’ll post those shots and write a bit about that tomorrow.

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8 Responses to “profile of a litterbug”

  1. robin andrea Says:

    It never ceases to amaze me what people will just toss into the woods. It’s like the earth is a giant garbage can for them. Until recently, there was one place on the walk to Chimacum Creek where people routinely drove in and just dumped their household garbage. Fortunately, someone moved four huge logs across the gravel road, so access is limited to foot traffic beyond. That has cut the trash completely.

    I’m assuming the Trojans you found are condoms. The only good thing about finding them is that it’s a sign that these idiots are not sending their genes into the next generation.

  2. John Says:

    The way people sometimes treat their own environment is beyond comprehension. I cannot imagine going into the homes of these litterbugs and seeing evidence of similar behavior (well, maybe I’m naive). Don’t they get it that throwing their trash all about is slovenly and disgusting? Occasionally I see someone toss a wrapper or a drink can from their cars…I want desperately to pick the item up, chase them down, and throw it back inside their cars (but I tend to be afraid of being shot). I’m not a fan of cameras watching our every move, but there are times I think it would be profitable to videotape these criminals, find out who they are, and broadcast their names along with the videos on local media.

  3. burning silo Says:

    robin – Yes, for sure, it is amazing what people will dump in the woods. The thing that I find as troubling is that many people dump unwanted garden plants on vacant lots or in woodlands. We’ve seen that quite often when we’re out and about. The thing that some people don’t “get” is that a plant that has become a problem in their own garden due to its invasive qualities – usually becomes an environmental nightmare – a sort of genie released from a bottle – once it gets a foothold in an area of natural habitat. I guess what infuriates me most about this kind of thing is that, in our area, there’s actually a public waste site for garden waste. It was first set up following the ice storm of January ’98, when people had tons of broken down trees and branches to dispose of. So, there’s really no damned excuse to be taking garden waste (a.k.a. “nightmare invasives”) out to the countryside to dump along roadways or in woodlands.
    And yes, the Trojans were condoms – packets and also used condoms. Really frigging annoying – we often encounter them around parking lots at the trailheads of forests near towns and cities. However, you’re so right — and I always think the same thing about the genes.

  4. burning silo Says:

    John – If you do enough hiking, you’ve sort of “seen it all” as far as how people will trash the environment. A couple of years ago, while hiking along a nature trail in a forest about 15 miles out of the city, Don and I came upon a big heap — about the contents of a trunk or back of a pick-up truck, or empty glass injection bottles with the labels torn off, piles of old syringes and a bunch of clothes and belongings — just dumped to the side of a section of trail that was accessible in a vehicle. I photographed the site, then when we got home, I put all the photos up on the net, called the city forestry department and the police, and reported the thing. I ended up having to go out and meet the police and lead them to the site, and then they got a hazardous waste crew come in and remove all the stuff –it was a crappy job for them as we had had snow and freezing rain, so all this nasty junk was sort of frozen to the ground and into the ice. Not all that long after, when the city dump stopped accepting tires as waste, on the same section of trail, we encountered a huge mountain of tires that had obviously been trashed by a tire shop or perhaps a farm that didn’t want to pay to have to dispose of the tires. Other things seen in the forest were demolition waste that had probably been hauled in by those doing building renovations, and just regular household trash. I photographed any examples I came across and sent it to the city forestry staff as well. Around the same time, the city fire department had to respond to a number of calls for burning stolen cars that had been torched in the forest — wonderful, especially considering that we had drought conditions that summer and the forest could have been burnt to the ground — and we’re talking about an area of a few thousand acres. Anyhow, after enough of this crap, the city finally put some locked gates on the roadways into many sections of the forest so that the only ones with access are fire departments, city crews and the police. It has made a huge difference to the condition of the trails and in reducing the amount of trash dumping.

  5. Susannah Says:

    I would have said that the problem is less evident here, in the BC Lower Mainland; at least the park areas are relatively free of big stuff. An occasional glass bottle in places where teenagers congregate, graffiti litter (paint cans, brushes, pop cans) in underpasses; not much else.

    But the vacant lot across the street disillusioned me. It is about the same as a downtown vacant lot, except for the lack of condoms. Why would anyone haul the shell of their old dryer half-way across a field — just the shell; it’s a mystery what they did with the motor and drum — when the city garbage disposal has a yearly “spring cleaning” program that allows you to stack literally whatever large objects at the edge of your lot for them to pick up? Is it too much to stash that shell in your garage until spring?

    The same goes for heavy half-rolled carpets; it would be easier to roll it nicely, leave it at the side of the garage and drag it to the curb in the spring. And would leave the vacant lot as a nice dog-walking/berry-picking/bird-watching site, to boot.

    People, sometimes, are incomprehensible.

  6. Cathy Says:

    Some people are pigs. It’s just a sad and scary fact. Some people are angels. Bless the angels who pick up after the pigs. I hope you’re careful around the bio-hazards. Those two tender, but stalwart little pines are a nice metaphor for you and Don. May they thrive under your care.

  7. burning silo Says:

    Susannah – I don’t generally investigate vacant lots near urban areas, but on the occasions when I do, there’s often some very senseless dumping of objects such as you’ve described — old sofas, carpets, appliances. You have to wonder why people do it when there are probably much easier (and normal) ways of disposing of an object. Weird!

    Cathy – Yes, we’re careful when picking up stuff… we wear rubber work gloves and use tools to pick things up. We were too tired to plant the little trees today, so I’ll have to find a good place for them tomorrow. I’m sure they’ll do well.

  8. Duncan Says:

    Happens over here too Bev, unfortunately, some people are just disgusting. My birding mate found a deposit, including documents identifying the miscreant, the local authorities rounded him up. The landfill used to be free, but since they imposed hefty charges illegal dumping has increased.