I have been questioned with, "Andy, do you ever have trouble finding something to write about?” I can still say - no. And a Newfoundland columnist has no fear of writer's block because there's always a backup column, our Old Faithful - litter.
Newfoundland is crawling with couldn't-care-less, numbskull, mindless, turn your stomach, idiots who do the likes of: throw litter out of parked or moving vehicles; heave all sorts of junk into our waterways and all over the land; go in the country and leave their garbage behind; leave flyers in shopping carts to soar with the wind; and drop from their hands anything, anywhere!
Litter rats is a fitting name for those who defile our environment. Rats are highly offensive despicable creatures that scurry from place to place, spreading their filth everywhere they go. Calling those who litter - pigs - is a misnomer; pigs are too intelligent, too clean, to behave like rats!
My first column on litter was April 15, 1999 (April is the cruelest month). And here I am again, sadly, for the fifteenth time on the topic of litter, garbage, recycling (favourite title: Welcome to Chookyland: May 18, 2006). Sadly, I don't expect the litter problem to go away any time soon.
Litter has been a Newfoundland problem for decades. In 1971 in my first teaching job (District Vocational School - Clarenville) I argued with students about bringing stuff back from the woods.
As councillor with the Town of Grand Falls (1977-81) I chaired a committee that had bookmarks with "Keep Grand Falls Clean - Don't be a litterbug" distributed to the then six Grand Falls schools. Did the message sink in?
The grounds around Woodland Primary, Millcrest and Sprucewood indicate, yes. However, Exploits Valley Intermediate and High School don't cut the mustard. The alcove at the Intermediate's entrance always has loads of litter. And the area on the east side of the high school has been a litter eyesore for years.
School leadership continues to fail us, but they are not alone! Businesses and governments are more guilty.
As for businesses, McDonald's Restaurants set the gold standard by assigning employees to keep their property in tip top shape. The ones I have seen (here, Nova Scotia, PEI) are quite often attractively landscaped with clean lots that have plenty of litter barrels that are routinely, emptied. Bravo! Bravo!
Now, if the whole business community, be it Dominion, Sobeys,
Walmart, Canadian Tire, Dollarama, malls or corner stores, took their cue from McDonald's, then a great deal of litter generated by businesses would be kept under control. But they don't!
But even when companies do their best, too many Newfoundlanders are barefaced jerks when it comes to litter. Recently, I saw a young man at McDonald's in Manuels, meters from litter bins on both sides of his car, throw litter on the lot. What a moron!
We have plenty of laws but that young man like all those who litter (young, old, male, female) fear not the law. But finally, St. John's - the province's biggest litterbin (per capita, every town is as bad) has hired a private company to try to get a handle on litter. Good luck to them - sure hope it works!
The new Norris Arm super dump is a prime example of poor municipal leadership. That dump had been in the works the past few years, but the Grand Falls-Windsor Saturday drop off was cancelled because there was no system is place to meet the new dump standards. How many years warning did the council need?
And why in heavens name did that dump open when it was not ready to operate in full recycling mode? Our garbage for now is taken there and buried just like at New Bay. In true Newfoundland style, once again - arse foremost! It's mind boggling that we are so far behind the Maritimes in dealing with garbage!
The Norris Arm facility is not the only dump in the region. The parking spot just across the bridge back of the mill has been a constant dumping ground. However, if you drive east for 1 km you will find an ever-expanding dump with refuse of all kinds. Drive west to Hydro's substation and turn left up Chipper Road and in less than a kilometer there is another dump.
And surely the litter rats have plenty more dumps, like those two, all over the province!
Many people don't litter. But there are plenty others making up for those who do not. This criminal behaviour (yes, littering is a crime) will be with us until the province and municipalities get off their legislative duffs and enforce the laws. Go undercover, if necessary - like the Ottawa police are doing to catch those driving and using cell phones.
Years ago, I and other boys were at the town dump (near Sanger Park) and watched an employee catch rats in the beam of his
flashlight and then pick them off with his 22 calibre rifle.
That's what needs to be finally done with Newfoundland's litter rats. Blitz the province! Line them up, catch them in their gross acts, and hit the scumbags with hefty fines. Do it often enough and litter will surely have to decline!
It's long, long overdue for the province and municipalities to reign in and whip out, our Old Faithful, once and for all!
Andy Barker at firstname.lastname@example.org