You won't believe how much roadside garbage this Huron County runner has picked up

Pete Meades of Bayfield is running each, individual road in Huron County while pushing a chariot stroller he fills with garbage.

Pete Meades says beer cans, disposable cups and plastic water bottles are most common

Pete Meades, near Lucknow, Ont., takes a break on his 3000 km run across Huron County. He's running every road, picking up trash along the way. (Pete Meades)

Pete Meades always planned to cover a lot of ground running this summer. What he wasn't expecting was to be collecting huge amounts of trash along the way. 

The Bayfield long-distance runner is jogging all of Huron County, covering each road on the map. Along the way, he's picking up roadside litter, dropping it into the chariot stroller he pushes as he runs. 

"It's unbelievable, just seeing the accumulations," said Meades, who estimates he's logged half of his 3000 kilometre goal.

He says he's gathering about 2-3 filled garbage bags every 10 kilometres. Once the chariot is filled, Meades drops a garbage bag on the side of the road and returns to gather it by car later on.

Pete Meades gets some help sorting litter into recyclable and non-recyclable piles in Holmesville, Ont. (Pete Meades)

County roads and disposable cups

The most common litter he's finding roadside?  Beer cans, disposable coffee cups and plastic water bottles.  

He said people who live on the roads stop him to say they're seeing more roadside garbage every year. Meades said the highest volume is found on roads heading toward the Lake Huron beach.

"It's tough to think, in this day and age, that people are of the mindset that it's okay to throw things out the window," he said.

Running a half-marathon a day

Running 125 kilometres a week amounts to a daily half-marathon for Meades, with one day of rest each week.

Meades drops garbage bags on the side of the road as he runs, then circles back to collect them by car. (Pete Meades)

"It's way more daunting than I thought. When I first thought of doing this, I borrowed my friend's stroller and went for a run and was like, 'This is no big deal, it's pretty straightforward."

He said pushing the stroller uphill uses muscles he's never had to use. Stopping and starting to pick things up also takes its toll.

"If you just go out for a 21 kilometre run, that's way more relaxed and easy than starting and stopping," said Meades. It requires more effort to keep going because he frequently loses momentum.

"Frustrating" to see litter back on the roads

The hardest part is seeing litter on the side of roads he's already cleaned up, calling it "super disheartening."

"I'm super sensitive to it, obviously. It's frustrating," said Meades.

(Pete Meades)

"You can stretch and get over the physical part," said Meades, who sees a chiropractor and massage therapist every week. Mentally, he says the volume of garbage can feel endless, and the kilometres alone on the road give him time to think about unnecessary plastics.

"Everything has three components to packaging now, it's over the top," he said, adding that online shopping results in "packaging on top of the packaging"

"The hardest part, mentally, is that this will all be for naught unless we do something about the amount of garbage we're producing needlessly."

Allison Devereaux