Spring is finally here, which means that the sun is out, the snow is melting, people are getting cheerful as the light at the end of the long winter tunnel comes into view—and the streets of Ottawa are awash with trash that has spent all winter accumulating in snowbanks.
The University of Ottawa’s environmental awareness has been formally recognized, with the most recent recognition in the UI Green Metric World University Ranking, where the U of O placed second in Canada and 27th in the world. But regardless of our international standing on the issue, seeing litter everywhere speaks volumes about our poor attitude towards the environment.
Apparently littering is fine when you can cover it up with snow and act like it isn’t there. Unfortunately, while the snow melts away in spring, the garbage doesn’t simply disappear.
Garbage is far from a natural phenomenon. People make garbage. The problem isn’t that we produce non-biodegradable waste in the first place, but how we carelessly dispose of it, especially when it’s so easily avoidable.
I understand that throwing out your garbage isn’t fun. Sometimes trash cans or recycling bins are scarce in certain parts of the city and you have to carry a gross, sticky wrapper for blocks until you find one. But that is still a much better alternative than looking at the mess outside.
The problem of littering isn’t just a matter of staring at a few rusting cans and plastic wrapping in the street. All of those products and the chemicals within them have harmful effects on the environment.
Whether it be cigarette butts or plastic bags, the chemicals within this debris can leach into the ground, and from there into the water. From there it can go almost anywhere, so the problem of littering goes far beyond the single piece of garbage.
The easiest way to handle this problem is more garbage bins. Both the City and the university need to have more garbage bins out and available. If there are more places for people to throw their garbage other than the street, people may be more inclined to throw their garbage out properly.
But with or without more garbage bins, people still need to get better at making the small effort to throw out their garbage. How is it acceptable in this day and age to just throw your trash in the street?
Please walk that extra block with the used napkin in your back pocket so you can throw it out. I know there isn’t going to be a parade waiting there to thank you for throwing it out, but a small price to pay turns into a huge effect when we collectively agree as a campus to do it.
At this point, I think we’ve all just gotten used to seeing our trash from last year come back and ruin the first weeks of spring. There are some things in life that we have to get used to, but piles of garbage should not be one of them.
Let’s stop ushering in the “season of rebirth” with piles of discarded cigarette butts and Styrofoam coffee cups clogging up our sidewalks.