As It Happens

Rogue Ontario trash collectors return illegally dumped garbage to woman who chucked it

Friends Ron Hawkshaw and Ron Bell took matters into their own hands when they rifled through illegally dumped garbage near Bowmanville, Ont., to find its owner.

When Ron Hawkshaw found 30 bags of garbage near Bowmanville, Ont., he rifled through it to find the owner

Ron Hawkshaw, right, and Ron Bell before they delivered illegally dumped garbage to its owner. (Submitted by Ron Hawkshaw)

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If you're planning to dump trash on the side of the road near Bowmanville, Ont., beware: Ron Hawkshaw might return it to you.

Last Saturday, Hawkshaw's phone rang with a call from friend Ron Bell, who told him about more than two dozen garbage bags he came across in a ditch near Stephen's Gulch, a conservation area just north of the community, which is northeast of Toronto. 

"I wasn't too happy," Hawkshaw told As It Happens guest host Susan Bonner. 

Stephen's Gulch is where he and his friends go to hunt, fish and enjoy nature, he said. 

Bell discovered 20 to 30 garbage bags dumped on the side of a road near Stephen's Gulch, north of Bowmanville, Ont. (Submitted by Ron Bell)

"I spend a lot of my time out there," he said.  "Hearing that somebody turned it into their own dumping grounds wasn't too pleasurable."

Rather than drive by the junk mound and call police later, Hawkshaw employed the help of Bell to take out the trash himself.

Into his own hands

After posting a photo of the trash pile on Facebook, friends suggested the pair look inside the bags for mail to identify the owner. 

"We just threw some gloves on and started picking through," he said.

After they came across a woman's identifying documents — toll highway receipts, phone bills and a letter from the Canada Revenue Agency — the pair loaded Hawkshaw's pickup truck and returned the refuse to its rightful owner.

Hawkshaw picks through the garbage bags to find out owns it. (Submitted by Ron Bell)

Needless to say, the homeowner wasn't too pleased.

Hawkshaw told As It Happens that when he pulled into the driveway and approached the owner, she was "super embarrassed."

He presented her with a letter and some family photos she had discarded, he said. 

"She gave me quite a weird look and said, 'That's quite personal information,'" he said.

"I told her that all the bags in the back of our truck is full of that personal information and I was just thinking she might want all that back."

She agreed, he said, and he left the bags on her property.

An effective solution

Hawkshaw said that he was "more than happy to" deliver the waste. He hoped it would give the homeowner a "wakeup call" to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Why take matters into his own hands? Police, he said, aren't always the best option.

"You can call the police and [the garbage dumper] might get a fine — maybe — if the police determine there's enough evidence there," he said.

Hawkshaw delivered the refuse to its homeowner. (Submitted by Ron Bell)

In response, Clarington municipality Coun. Ron Hooper said that residents shouldn't get their hands dirty.

"The message that the municipality has always conveyed is that if you do witness someone dumping, that you should not interact or interfere at all," Hooper told Global News.

"Just call the police to report, as interfering may put them at risk."

Rogue garbage man

That warning likely won't stop Hawkshaw from filling his pickup again, he said.

"If somebody decides to dump garbage on our street again, I'll be sure to pick through to see if I can find some mail," he said with a chuckle.

Hawkshaw and Bell filled their pickup truck with the garbage. (Submitted by Ron Bell)

The approach, he said, is fair.

"We haven't publicly shamed anybody," Hawkshaw said, adding that neither he nor Bell have named the homeowner.

"She knows who she is and she knows what she's done."

Hawkshaw said his neighbours and friends weren't too happy to hear about the junk.

"But they were happy to hear [the homeowner] got her garbage back," he said.

Written by Jason Vermes. Interview produced by Mary Newman.

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