Plastic bags, cigarette butts and paper cups are just some of the most common types of garbage to be found on London streets, but they aren’t the items that Rick Vandersluis still gets surprised by.
Vandersluis, vice-president of business development at Try Recycling Inc. and a member of the London Clean & Green organizing committee, recently had this reality brought into focus while driving on a sideroad not far from his office.
“There was a site I passed and there were a couple of couches I saw sitting at the side of the road,” he said. “It’s probably the couches and mattresses, the big bulky items, that still surprise me. Those are the most obvious to me.
With the London Clean & Green’s annual community cleanup day approaching on Saturday, April 21, attention is once again being focused on the types of litter most commonly picked up from streets and along hedges and fences all over the Forest City.
According to London Clean & Green, the Top 10 items of litter include: plastic bags, cigarette butts and packaging, renovation materials, paper cups, snack and candy wrappers, beverage cans and bottles, drinking straws, expanded foam plastic, chewing gum and paper packaging and flyers.
While those are the most common types of litter, Vandersluis said he remains most perplexed when someone decides to dispose of those larger items (furniture and appliances for example) into a nearby ditch.
“They really are halfway there to dealing with it responsibly by taking the time to put it in their vehicle. People know the proper ways,” he said. “There are recycling areas, bulk item drop-offs. There are places for that stuff to go. I would say its laziness and people trying to get away with not paying a drop-off fee.”
The idea of avoiding the fees associated with proper disposal of these larger scale items (or perhaps those more common bags of renovation materials) is one Vandersluis said is hard to understand.
After all, individuals caught illegally dumping trash can face a fine in the vicinity of $500 while tipping fees at official sites run around $50. “People think there is no consequence, but there really is.”
Fortunately, Vandersluis said, he’s seeing less of those kinds of items being dumped illegally.
When it comes to those more common pieces of litter, items like the paper cups and candy wrappers, proper disposal, Vandersluis said, becomes a mindset.
People are less inclined, he added, to throw items out the window as they’re driving down the road. They set them in their vehicle and when they get to where they’re going, people are more often disposing of those items properly.
Drinking straws is another popular trash item, but Vandersluis said they are becoming less popular outside of restaurants.
Plastic grocery bags are another item slowly being faded out of regular use as cloth bags become more the norm. And for those who do use plastic bags, people are now more educated that these items can be recycled instead of thrown into the landfill.
“We’re out there to educate. We aren’t there to beat the drum to say thou shall do this. No, we’re out there spreading the word that these are the opportunities you can partake of to help make your city a better place,” Vandersluis said. “It just takes time. We’re 23 years into doing this now and the fact of the matter is we’re making strides.”