By Robin Smyth

It’s almost impossible to drive or walk through any city without noticing trash littering the ground. In some cities, such as Winnipeg, when the conditions are just right, residents are treated to a garbage wind dervish.

Have you seen one? It’s a tiny, little tornado-like funnel of wind spinning with empty chip bags, cigarette butts, fast food wrappers and what have you. Dis-gusting.

With all of the garbage and recycling bins dotted around cities, people still feel the need to have someone else clean up their messes. What is running through a litterbug’s brain as they shove an empty soda can out the open window of a vehicle? Do they expect their parent to come bustling along, tsk-tsking and cleaning up after them? Um, hello, snap out of it people.

Is the root cause of this penchant to litter due to the fact that city dwellers don’t get to see the long range effects of tossing trash? Perhaps everyone needs to take a break from city streets and go somewhere a little bit slower and cleaner to get a grip on the importance of putting trash where it belongs.

By reconnecting with nature, we all might be inspired to step-up efforts to reduce and recycle, and keep our living spaces clean. We might even be inspired to pick up someone else’s trash, rather than step over it.

Knowing that the world around us relies on our actions should be reason enough, but there are far too many people occupied with other thoughts. It seems a pity that on top of all else that goes on in the world, the human race has added on top—like an inglorious cherry—a filthy layer of waste.

Thankfully, there are city services in place to alleviate some of the endless rivers of garbage we generate. These services are, however, unable to keep up with the constant and non-stop barrage of litter.

Even when staff and equipment collect stuffed and overflowing bins, they leave a trail of trash behind. In their haste, rubbish meant for the landfill ends up in streets, back lanes and sidewalks. These scraps are blithely ignored by residents and passersby until the wind removes them. Unfortunately, the wind replaces what it has borne away and, as such, the garbage takes on a life of its own.

Should there be garbage collectors to clean up after the garbage collectors or….? Whose job is that anyway? In some European countries, it is the duty of shopkeepers and home owners to tidy up to the middle of the street in front of their properties, which seems to be rather a brilliant idea. Perhaps all cities and urban centres should implement the same street cleaning strategy in order to promote a healthier environment.

Judging, however, from the backlash against a suggestion in Winnipeg that all sidewalk snow removal be done by individuals rather than city crews, the likelihood of making residents clean streets is rather low. And why? As a collective are we so disconnected from the Earth itself that we feel infuriated by the task of keeping it clean? Or are we content with wind whipped wrappers and trash lined streets?

Rather, we should take the challenge to ourselves to return our cities to pristine and clutter-free conditions. Our pride in our communities and respect for each other and the planet that hosts us should be the driving force behind our desire to leave as small a footprint as possible.

While a small portion of the population may be valiantly attempting to clean up after the majority, the task is far too daunting for the minority to accomplish alone. Our water supplies, our wildlife, our protected spaces, all teeter on the edge of oblivion due to the slovenly spoiled behaviours of our world’s populace.

The sky is falling and we all busily point fingers at others to clean up our mess so we can continue on in the fog of ignorance.  What more of a wake up call do we need? Is global warming and a Texas size island of oceanic trash not enough?

Should we not all care more, do more, ask for better? The Earth, our children and, indeed, ourselves deserve far better than what we are currently giving.


Robin Smyth has contributed to newsletters, business publications, inter-company webpages and blog sites. She has reported on multiple genres engaging a variety of styles and is known for her one draft, no edits style of writing. Follow her on Twitter @RobinDS3.


A better way to keep our streets clean is to just not create the waste in the first place. If you’re a smoker, instead of throwing your butts on the ground (he he he), quite smoking or use a pipe, which is way more fashionable anyways.

You can bring your own containers to get take-out food and obviously reusable coffee mugs are excellent.

It might be a big step, but you could stop buying products that come with packaging. Instead of buying a bag of chips, make chips at home. Instead of candy, get your sugar-fix from fresh fruit. Instead of buying frozen produce, pick it fresh in the summer and store it in the freezer over the summer.

Don’t throw out torn clothing. Instead, turn them into dog toys. If you’re not up for it, send your rags to us and we’ll do it for you!

There are so many ways to reduce garbage in the city, it’s a shame to not explore at least a few options.

Tweet your favourite garbage-reducing tip @CockroachMag.

Advertisements