If you drive around Williams Lake, B.C., you will likely spot Wilber Saunders picking up garbage along the side of the road.

The 72-year-old retiree has developed a hobby of collecting other people's trash.

"I've cleaned up here, there and everywhere," said Saunders.

The unusual habit started out of a need for more exercise following a heart operation nine years ago.

"I was doing a walk ... and I could see there was lots of cans and bottles and things in the ditch," he said. "I decided, to make it look a lot better, I would pick up the garbage. It kind of got to be a habit."

'30 bags within like 3 km'

Saunders was surprised how much garbage he found.

"Like 30 bags within like three kilometres."

"Then when I got that cleaned up, I started expanding. I'm just about doing the whole countryside."

Wilber Saunders garbage collector

In 2016, the City of Williams Lake recognized Saunders' efforts with a certificate of appreciation. (Wilber Saunders)

Saunders walks about 11 km a day picking up trash, which he then loads into his car to take to the dump or to recycle.

He estimates he's picked up roughly 1,500 bags of garbage in total in his local area.

"My father kind of became the face of garbage clean up here in Williams Lake," said Anita Diepdael, Saunders' daughter.

City award

"The community response has been amazing. [Residents] provide him with lunch, with coffee, they thank him," she said.

Last year, the local city council recognized Saunders with a certificate of appreciation and even gave him dozens of garbage bags to help in his efforts.

He admits he's now a bit of a local celebrity and vows to keep tidying up the countryside as long as possible.

"People see me and they toot the horn and they stop," said Saunders.

"If people don't see me out there cleaning away at it, they feel there's something wrong with me."

With files from CBC's Radio West.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story said Saunders had picked up 400 bags of garbage. In fact, he picked up about 1,500 bags of garbage.
    Oct 23, 2017 12:12 PM PT