The provincial transportation department says it's working on a cleanup plan for the Outer Ring Road in St. John's.

A major cleanup of the provincial highway hasn't taken place since 2015, when 110 tonnes of garbage was removed from the area over the course of three days.

An excessive amount of trash this spring has led to calls for government action, and now Minister Al Hawkins said a plan is being worked on.

Hawkins GFW Mill

Minister of Transportation and Works Al Hawkins says a cleanup plan for the Outer Ring Road should be in place in the next few weeks. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

"I would hope within a couple weeks we will have a plan in place," he told the St. John's Morning Show on Thursday.

"It's shameful, it's absolutely shameful that we do have as much garbage along these roads. It's not acceptable in 2017."

While the province plans to clean up the Outer Ring Road, Hawkins said there are significant safety considerations for workers given the high volume of traffic.

Hawkins said the province is working with the City of St. John's on how to best tackle the cleanup, and how to do it in the fastest and safest way possible.

He said his department does not want people cleaning up roadside trash while commuters pass by at high speeds. 

"Obviously it seems to be a systemic problem, particularly in areas that are arteries leading into waste centres," he said.

"Safety is number one. So we've got to put a solid plan in place. Whether we will have sections of the Outer Ring Road closed, or if we'll have the entire Outer Ring Road closed."


The transportation department is also working with Service NL in an effort to step up enforcement in the area, according to Hawkins. He said enforcement is key because after the big cleanup two years ago, the road was nearly as bad again just one month later.

Outer Ring Road trash May 2017

Trash seen in a culvert on a section of the Outer Ring Road near St. John's this week. The provincial government has not initiated a major cleanup of the road since 2015. (Martin Jones/CBC)

The fact that each year seems to bring more garbage to the stretch of road shows that education campaigns are not working. Hawkins believes the only way to cut back on the trash is to crack down on those who use the highway as their personal dumping ground.

"You would think in 2017 that most people would be educated to the point that they know it's not proper to throw things out of the vehicle, or transport on our highways in open pickup trucks," he said.

"With all the promotion and education that's been done, it's unacceptable. We've got to start doing a better job of looking after the environment and taking care of our province."

With files from the St. John's Morning Show