Nfld. & Labrador

Spring litter cleanup by City of St. John's will go ahead without volunteers

The COVID-19 pandemic means hundreds of community cleanups, which have become a rite of spring for many volunteers, won't happen this year.

City says COVID-19 pandemic means hundreds of community trash pickups won't happen this year

Coffee cups, cigarette butts, and milk cartons are among the myriad items revealed when the snow melts in St. John's. (Gary Locke/ CBC)

The COVID-19 pandemic means hundreds of community litter cleanups — a rite of spring for many volunteers — won't happen this year in St. John's.

The task of cleaning up the garbage uncovered by retreating snowbanks will fall largely to city workers.

"We'll do our best to get through," said Ian Froude, Ward 4 councillor and chair of the city's public works and sustainability committee.

"We'll have a group of about 80 staff, including the downtown litter crew and our parks staff and our waste division, to do cleanups."
Coun. Ian Froude says people can help by ensuring their own properties are clean and picking up after their dogs. (Gary Locke/CBC)
 

Froude said the COVID-19 outbreak has changed, and slowed down, the cleanup work done by city staff.

"They have to follow rules like other workplaces. So, for instance, they can only have one individual in a vehicle at a time and they have to wear proper personal protective equipment, and of course large cleanup groups aren't possible now," he said.

Public health restrictions mean removing the trash scattered around the city will take much longer than usual.

"Then you add the layer on of community groups not being able to get out. So, Clean St. John's is not able to organize their cleanups, and with 300 of those being scheduled each year, [that's] a significant amount of litter that's not being picked up by the community this year," said Froude.

City workers have been given safety instructions and equipment for picking up items such as discarded safety gloves and masks.

Froude said the best way for people to help is to make sure to clean up their own properties as well as picking up after their dogs when out for a walk. If residents see a littered park or open space, they should report it to the city through the service centre.

Froude said hundreds of city garbage bins that were removed for the winter will soon be returned to city parks and open spaces.

However, the pandemic has cancelled another option for most people in St. John's. The Robin Hood Bay landfill is closed to residential users to promote physical distancing. Froude says residents who do pick up litter will have to put it in their own garbage bins.

St. John's began using automated garbage trucks, like this one in Mount Pearl, in 2018. (CBC)

Froude said the city hopes there will be less trash around this year than in previous years. One of the reasons for moving to automated garbage trucks was to reduce the amount of litter around St. John's, he said.

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