Nfld. & Labrador

Mixed bags of junk: 300 people turn out to clean litter from Outer Ring Road

Metrobus carried volunteers to the Outer Ring Road on Sunday, where they picked up heaps of trash, car parts and even old mattresses.

130 tonnes of garbage collected on Sunday

Tina Smith spent her morning picking up trash on the Outer Ring Road. She was appalled by the amount of plastic in the ditches and medians, as well as the number of beer bottles. (Ryan Cooke/CBC)

"People can be so disgusting."

The words travelled a few metres to where I was standing, carried in the wind along with a stench of garbage on a hot June  day.

On the side of a ditch, a father and son picked up trash with fervour. Just down from them was a mother and daughter doing the same.

All along the Outer Ring Road, 300 people gathered to clean up the mess left behind by people too inconsiderate to discard their trash like decent human beings.

Ayhan Akinturk and his son, Ali, worked near Allandale Road. They found plenty of Tim Hortons cups, as well as several car parts. (Ryan Cooke/CBC)

"I can't stand to drive the Outer Ring Road and see the mess," said Tina Smith, a volunteer. "It's a blight on the city, and on the province. I hope there's cleanups taking place all over the city. It's really dirty."

Starting at 8 a.m., people headed to the Confederation Building to register. They were given a safety vest, gloves and a large, clear garbage bag.

We stepped off the bus near Allandale Road, to an eerily quiet Outer Ring Road. The peaceful setting was interrupted on a dozen occasions throughout the morning, however, as drivers ignored the barricades and entered the closed highway.

Walking to the side of the road, we took on swaths of land about 100 feet from each other.

Immediately, I was struck by the number of Tim Hortons cups surrounding me. Without taking a step, I bent down and picked up six cups — all the same brand.

Moving a few feet down the road, I came across beer bottles. Bud Light, Coors, Shock Top — take your pick.

A punctured tire was discarded on the Outer Ring Road, near Allandale Drive. (Ryan Cooke/CBC)

Cigarettes butts, which can take upwards of 10 years to biodegrade, lined both sides of the road with a cluster every few metres.

And then there are the car parts.

Smith was busy picking up beer cans when she stumbled across an entire headlight from a car. A family picked up an iron bar from the underside of a vehicle, near the plastic running board of a truck.

Next to the on ramp at Allandale Road, a punctured tire sits in a ditch, rimless but with an army of snails inside.

Helping hands lift tonnes

For all the bad, however, there were plenty of good citizens helping out on Sunday.

"I think the Earth is our home," said Ayse Akinturk, who was there with her husband and son. "The same way we clean our home, we should clean our environment."

Ed Flynn, who came with his entire family, was tired of seeing trash littered along the road.

"We've been driving past the trash on the highway for months," he said. "We just came out to do our part."

The highway has not seen a major cleanup since 2015, when 110 tonnes of garbage was collected in three days.

On Sunday, the total was topped. More than 130 tonnes of garbage were collected, filling eight dump trucks.

Smith, meanwhile, hopes the highway will look better for people whose first impression of St. John's is the road leading into the city.

"I'm hopeful this will make a big dent in it," she said. "But it's bad."


Ryan Cooke is a journalist in St. John's.