Plastics, masks and unmentionables: Spring cleanup hits full swing, despite wintry weather

·3 min read
A government worker picks up plastic containers during an Outer Ring Road cleanup on Sunday. (Ryan Cooke/CBC - image credit)
A government worker picks up plastic containers during an Outer Ring Road cleanup on Sunday. (Ryan Cooke/CBC - image credit)

St. John's experienced all four seasons on Sunday, but it didn't stop spring cleanup efforts across the city.

About 200 people headed to the Outer Ring Road early in the morning to help rid the highway of trash. The entire route from Kenmount Road to Logy Bay Road was closed from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. so teams could safely bag and remove trash.

Despite a cold rain turning to snow in the early afternoon, 15-year-old Lucas Barrett was committed to the cause.

Ryan Cooke/CBC
Ryan Cooke/CBC

"It doesn't really bother me much," he said about the weather.

"We only live for a certain amount of time and people come after us. We have to make sure we keep the world clean."

Barrett and his friend, Jay Ivey, had picked up about 16 bags of trash between them by midday. They found a lot of plastics — straws, cups and lids, zip ties, bottle caps and tarps.

"It doesn't really go away by itself," Barrett said. "You've got to do this and clean it up."

The Outer Ring Road is a common route for trucks heading to the landfill at Robin Hood Bay. A combination of high winds and unsecured loads has made it a notorious place for trash buildup.

With so much litter, people are often surprised by some of the things they find on the side of the road.

John Whalen, a worker with the Department of Transportation and Works, said they lifted transport truck tires and wooden stakes from guard rails. There was also a large TV in a median. The strangest thing though? A sex toy discarded on the side of the road near the Thorburn Road exit.

"Yeah, that's the weirdest thing we found this morning," he laughed.

Other cleanups taking place

Before the rain and snow set in on Sunday, Battery Café owner Rob Salsman — along with a few loyal customers and some local residents — set out to clean up the Battery area of St. John's.

The touristy neighbourhood was looking a little worse for wear after the snow melted and revealed a mess of random trash on the hillside facing the harbour.

Ryan Cooke/CBC
Ryan Cooke/CBC

"It's quite a big problem, surprisingly," Salsman said of the litter.

"We're fortunate to have a beautiful view of the harbour but it is marred a bit by the trash that's blowing."

The Battery Café organizes a cleanup each year in the area. Discarded masks have become a pesky problem since the pandemic began, and the usual plastics were present along the hillside, but volunteers also found debris from winter windstorms — pieces of shingles ripped from rooftops, and some vinyl siding stuck in bushes.

Salsman said people really care about the neighbourhood — even those who don't live there — and want to keep it clean.

"Tourism is going to become a bigger and bigger part of what keeps us afloat," Salsman said.

"Making the place look its best is important for the city and important for businesses. Waiting for the city to do stuff is one way to do it, but a more proactive way is to get ourselves involved and try to get the community out to look after their own backyard."

Community cleanups also took place in the Rabbittown and Airport Heights neighbourhoods on the weekend.

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