British Columbia

Vancouver woman spends spare time picking up others' litter

A Vancouver woman says she was able to fill nearly 30 shopping bags full of other people's litter in two afternoons of litter-picking along the Arbutus Greenway.

Kate Gardiner, 24, filled nearly 30 shopping bags full of trash in two days along the Arbutus Greenway

Kate Gardiner crouches to pick up a tiny piece of litter, adding it to one of 12 shopping bags she filled in six hours on Tuesday afternoon. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Kate Gardiner, 24, clawed her way into a thick bush to reach a few pieces of litter. The brittle branches scratched her arms and legs, even drawing a drop of blood.

"This is the worst part. I mean, I'm in a bush — not a comfortable spot to be in," she said.

Gardiner got what she was after, a piece of broken Styrofoam, and added it to the shopping bag filling with litter. She continued to inch her way along the side of the Vancouver's Arbutus Greenway, collecting garbage the whole way.

Kate Gardiner reaches into a bush along the Arbutus Greenway near 49th Avenue in Vancouver. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

By the end of six hours on Tuesday afternoon, Gardiner had filled 12 shopping bags with tiny pieces of plastic, cigarette butts, disposable cups and whatever else she found strewn along the path.

On Monday, it was the same story. Gardiner posted a photo of part of her haul online on the Vancouver subreddit. She claimed 17 bags that day, from about 20 blocks of the path.

"It's extremely rewarding," Gardiner said on Tuesday. "You get a bit of a tan, you get some fresh air and it's pretty fun. Honestly it's pretty gratifying."

Kate Gardiner, 24, posted this photo on Reddit, saying it was just part of the 17-shopping-bag haul of garbage collected on Monday. (Kate Gardiner)

Her post on Reddit attracted almost 200,000 views and well over 5,000 encouraging upvotes.

Gardiner said she did the same thing last spring, but has found much more garbage this year, as the relatively new pedestrian and cycling path gets more and more users.

She said she wasn't aiming to shame litterbugs with her post; it was more a case of trying to lead by example and inspire others to pitch in with litter cleanup in their leisure time. But if a little bit of shame for people who don't properly dispose of their garbage is a side-effect, she's OK with that.

"Don't throw things on the ground. There's always a bin nearby. Even if the bins are full, just put it in your backpack, put it in your pocket and take it home," Gardiner said.

A City of Vancouver garbage bin overflows as student Kate Gardiner picks up litter in the distance. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

As she passed an overfilled garbage bin on the path, Gardiner picked up a few of the pieces of trash on the ground, noting that many of the city's bins seem to be overfilled, and the extra litter gets blown around by the wind.

"I think more bins would be a good idea, especially in the seating areas," she suggested. "And empty the existing bins, because a lot of people are willing to carry their trash an extra 200 metres or so, but if they get there and the bins are full, it's not good for anyone."


Is there more to this story? Email rafferty.baker@cbc.ca

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About the Author

Rafferty Baker is CBC Vancouver's mobile journalist. Follow him @raffertybaker

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