West Island initiative promotes cleaning up, transforming common trash into pieces of art

Lucas Hygate crawls around Beaconsfield's Angell Woods on his hands and knees, sifting through the litter that covers the ground.

It's part of an initiative he calls Trash Talk, with the goal to get people out in the West Island to clean up litter and then transform it into art.

"We want to bridge the gap between environmentalism and pop culture," said Hygate.

"We want to make cleaning up fun for everyone involved."

A group of volunteers have so far focused their efforts in Angell Woods, an area, they say, which is littered with trash.

Rusted out Coke cans from the 1970s, broken glass and plastic bags cover the forest floor.

"Hundreds of people walk through [Angell Woods] every day and don't realize how much garbage is actually here," said Trash Talk volunteer Malcolm Adamson.

"[People] put it at the back of their minds. They know it's filthy but don't know how filthy it actually is."

On one of their clean-up sessions, the volunteers managed to clean up 1,250 pounds of garbage from a small section of the forest. About 700 pounds of the trash was made up of broken glass.

Chloë Ranaldi/CBC

One man's trash…

So, what is Trash Talk's plan for all that garbage?

"What we're going to be doing at our clean-ups eventually is creating a sculpture, directly on the site," said Hygate.

"These are going to be sculptures that are going to be built with an individual's trash, a citizen of the West Island's trash."

Hygate said he was inspired to start Trash Talk by similar initiatives he saw online.

The initiative has garnered support from Beaconsfield Mayor Georges Bourelle.

"The importance of the trash cleanup undertaken by these young men goes far beyond the local community," he said at the latest council meeting.

"Much like they have inspired me and our council as a whole, I am confident they will inspire others to follow their lead. Our planet urgently needs more eco-warriors like them."

Hygate says that while Trash Talk may be small, its impact could be huge if everyone did the same.

"In order to start a wide-scale change, you need to start somewhere," he said.