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Taking Action and Tackling Litter

May 1, 2023

By Christie Brodie, Interpretation Projects Coordinator, Royal Botanical Gardens.

We’ve all seen it and we’ve all smelled it. Litter isn’t a pleasant experience for any of us, nor for our neighbours in nature. The second Tuesday of May is designated as the Provincial Day of Action on Litter here in Ontario. Celebrated annually, this day of action aims to highlight things we can all do to help prevent, reduce, and divert waste from ending up in landfills, and help protect the environment.

Royal Botanical Gardens’ 900 hectares (2400 acres) of nature sanctuaries are important habitats and ecosystems and form a Nodal Park in the Niagara Escarpment World Biosphere Region. RBG is home to thousands of species of plants and animals. These same nature sanctuaries are surrounded by urban life. This often means that remnants and waste from people in the urban areas end up within RBG’s nature sanctuaries.

Vast efforts have been made by staff and volunteers over the years to remove and clean-up waste within our nature sanctuaries. Here are some examples of things we’ve seen removed from the across RBG.

plastic bag of dog waste thrown in the snow
Doggie bags that have been left behind or forgotten are one of the most common types of litter we see along our trails.
Tampon Applications Removed from Cootes Watershed
Hundreds of plastic tampon applicators that were collected during clean-ups around Cootes Paradise by the Stewards of Cootes Watershed.
dump clean up
At times, large amounts of very oversized waste are collected, like this pile from a 2019 clean-up. Tires, shopping carts, and all sorts of things end up in places you’d never expect.
Frayed Tarp Strings
Entanglement of wildlife is a concern whenever we find things like these strings of plastic from a fraying tarp that was discarded.

Thankfully, there are small actions we can all take at home to avoid our waste ending up in natural spaces. Here are some considerations:

  • Can it be re-used? Try giving a container a second life before disposing of it.
  • Does it need to go to landfill? Ensure you are getting the most use out of your blue and green bins by using them to their full potential.
  • How is it packaged? Try choosing products with less packaging or packaging that can be recycled to reduce the amount heading to landfill.
  • Is it ready for recycling? Check out your municipality’s guidelines for recycling items. Containers usually need to be empty, rinsed out and dry.
  • Is it well contained? Ensure your bins and garbage bags are well sealed and/or tied. Often things accidentally end up where they shouldn’t be, such as when a loosely tied bag opens in the wind.

Learn more about the Provincial Day of Action on Litter and get tips on what you can do to help.

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