Nfld. & Labrador

When it comes to cleaning up, the L word isn't litter; it's laziness

A recent visit to South Korea provided plenty of perspective for CBC reporter Adam Walsh, on managing waste.
The Eastern Regional Service Board sent letters to people with homes or cabins on unserviced roads asking if they wanted their trash picked up, and the majority said no. (Chantal Bernard/CBC)

I'm still part of the problem.

No, I'm not one of the skeets who dumps his washer, spare oil drum, old sofa and other unwanted odds and ends in the woods on the outskirts of town.

What I am is lazy.

I recycle, but there are times when instead of throwing out beyond-edible strawberries and putting the plastic container in a blue bag in my laundry room, I just toss the whole thing in the garbage.

Leaving the one per cent of the skeetery that goes on in this province aside, I think a lot of the trash we see each spring has to do with the same affliction I suffer from: laziness.

If we were all a little less lazy, we wouldn't have to get together each spring and put such an effort into cleaning this place up.

That said, at least on the surface, things are getting better.

We waited until June this year for the Morning Show's annual 15-minute Community Cleanup.

Was it a little late? Perhaps. We actually noticed we had more trouble than usual finding spots to clean because the city is looking pretty good.

But it's because the show was a little later in the year that we noticed how much people pull together to get spring cleaning done.

We can do way, way better

I got back in town last week after a month in South Korea visiting my in-laws. My wife is South Korean. 

A highway service station stop in South Korea. Notice the many recycling containers: there are bins for different types of plastics and other materials, and a small garbage bin at the end. (Adam Walsh/CBC)

Newfoundland and South Korea are actually similar in size when it comes to land mass. Newfoundland has 111,390 square kilometres, while South Korea has 100,210 sq km. (With Labrador included, we're more than four times their size.)

That's land mass. Consider the population: South Korea has 50 million people, to our 500,000 and change.

Simply put, South Koreans do not have the luxury of leaving trash on the ground for a once a year cleanup.

They're also light years ahead of us when it comes to sorting their garbage and recycling.

Glass bottles? Of course. Composting? They've been doing it for more than a decade now ... and I'm talking about municipally-led efforts, not just home garden ones.

A garbage/recycling area outside of an apartment complex in Seoul, South Korea. (Adam Walsh/CBC)

I'm not allowed to be lazy about recycling when I visit my in-laws in Sejong City, which is 110 km south of Seoul. Namely because my mother-inlaw would kill me if I tossed a plastic container in with the small bag of un-recyclables.

Her approach to recycling is that you have no choice. You have to do it because in Korea, it wouldn't take long for 50 million people to bury their nub of the Korean peninsula in garbage.

In the last 10 to 20 years, they looked at themselves and decided to change.

We're well down the road but we've still got a ways to go.

Friday morning in just two hours, a handful of volunteers filled close to a couple dozen garbage bags of litter.

It wasn't hard, it was actually pretty easy. You know what's even easier? Not having to pick anything up at all.

CBC reporter Adam Walsh interviews Coun. Sandy Hickman during the St. John's Morning Show's 15-Minute Community Cleanup. (CBC)


Adam Walsh

CBC News

Adam Walsh is a CBC journalist. He works primarily for the St. John's Morning Show, and contributes to television and digital programming.


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