Garbage pickers in eastern P.E.I. clean roads, beaches year-round
'I love it because it gives me a purpose when I go out to walk'
They call themselves the Northside Pickers and their efforts at gathering up garbage in eastern P.E.I. have inspired people in their area to do more.
It all started when Marion Harris, Anne Lutz, Louise Deagle, and Dave and Brenda White decided they had to something about the garbage they were seeing during their daily walks.
People know what they're doing is not right. I just really honestly don't think they care.— Brenda White
"When I come to P.E.I. and I see the beautiful ocean and the beautiful tree-lined highways, I can't imagine someone wanting to litter them," said Brenda White, who moved to the Island last year from Ontario.
"It breaks my heart, so we pick up the garbage to keep this place looking beautiful the way it is."
The Souris and Area Branch of the P.E.I. Wildlife Federation is now putting together a map of local residents who have agreed to "adopt" a stretch of road and keep it clean year-round.
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'People just pitch it'
White and her husband were walking along the highway near their home when they noticed the garbage, and started bringing bags to pick it up.
They met others in the area doing the same thing, and the Northside Pickers were born.
"Anything from coffee cups, beer cans down at the beach here, there's a lot of netting that can be dangerous to the wildlife," White said.
"Styrofoam, you name it, people just pitch it and I can't understand why."
White said the amount of garbage they find usually increases after a long weekend.
"My husband, I always call him the ditch diver because he goes right down into the gullies and he gets the garbage," White said.
"What you see from the roadway when you're driving is nothing compared to what's down in the gullies."
The Northside Pickers take the recyclables to the local depot and plan to start donating the money they make to a worthy cause.
The Souris wildlife group has offered to get the members safety vests, which they said they appreciate, especially since some stretches of the highway have busy traffic.
White estimates they cover one to two kilometres on every walk, stopping to pick up trash along the way.
"People know what they're doing is not right. I just really honestly don't think they care," White said. "That somebody like us, the Northside Pickers, will be there to clean up after them and that's not the way it should be."
Marion Harris is happy the idea is catching on.
"I'm really excited because first of all we're getting exercise," Harris said. "Second of all, we're cleaning our environment and third of all, it's just more pleasing to drive down a road that isn't littered with garbage."
More organized clean-up
The Souris wildlife group says there are other groups and individuals who already go around and pick up litter in the area, but there has been more interest since the story of the Northside Pickers was shared in the group's newsletter.
"I think it's incentivized people to go out and do a bit more and become a bit more organized in what they do," said Frances Braceland, project manager for the Souris and Area branch of the P.E.I. Wildlife Federation.
"Letting us know about it so we can try and make a map and get an idea of what areas are being covered."
Braceland estimates 30 to 40 percent of the wildlife group's management area is currently being cleaned up regularly.
"In terms of the beauty of the area, especially when P.E.I. relies so much on tourism, to make sure that the area looks nice is very very important," Braceland said.
'A huge eyesore'
Braceland also worries about the impact of trash on wildlife.
"You see stories all the time about animals getting their head stuck in plastic ring pulls," Braceland said. "You can end up poisoning animals as well, especially if it's anything alcoholic. You don't want to cause any issues to the wildlife out there."
Braceland said there are a problem spots in the area where people just dump things.
"I guess the fees for taking things to the dump might be a problem, people don't want to pay the waste disposal fees," Braceland said.
"It might just be easier to go and drop it off the back of a truck somewhere but it's a huge eyesore."
The Souris wildlife group has also created some new waste containers that they've placed at some beaches and other popular tourist spots where they are having problems with litter getting dumped.