MANITOULIN – Describing themselves as people who would rather “do something than sit around complaining,” two women have decided to step up to the challenge of addressing litter and garbage on Manitoulin. Sophie Pheasant (former co-ordinator of the Wiikwemkoong Green Team) and Judith Jones (Winter Spider Eco-Consulting) are putting their skill sets together to come up with creative ways to address garbage, litter and other environmental issues.
“Initially, it was just a reaction to the buzz around a possible increase in litter from the new Tim Hortons,” said Ms. Jones, “but because of COVID-19 there is an increase in the use of take-out food packaging in general, and there are many other inter-related issues in dealing with garbage that we want to address.”
The two well-known community environmentalists say a broader Island-wide focus will be more effective. The current initiative grows out of a similar project that was based just within the Wiikwemkoong community.
Rather than organize more volunteer clean-ups, which many communities already have in place, the Manitoulin Green Team’s focus will be on proactive ideas to try to prevent litter and garbage from happening in the first place. Ms. Pheasant said that at the root of the effort is “respect for the Earth, the Island, the community and ourselves.”
So far, the new Green Team has met with Denis Lefebvre, owner of the new Tim Hortons in Little Current. They asked Mr. Lefebvre whether the new Tims would have garbage cans at the drive-through. Mr. Lefebvre responded that at his other Tims restaurants (Espanola, Blind River, Elliot Lake) he found many people dumped bags of household garbage, cleaned everything out of their cars, and dropped off a lot of garbage had nothing to do with Tims, and the cans filled up way too quickly. “We couldn’t keep up with emptying the cans and so the garbage was blowing around the parking lot and off the site, and that was not good at all,” Mr. Lefebvre said.
The Green Team is working with Mr. Lefebrvre, who was very responsive to addressing the litter issues. One of the first steps will be positive messaging such as ‘Everything here is recyclable.’ The new Tims will have recycling cans at the doors.
The team has also been in contact with the Northeast Town and discussed the need to have more places that people can recycle trash in public spaces around Little Current. The municipality has responded quickly and says it will purchase several garbage cans with separate bins for recyclables. It has also agreed to add messages about recycling and litter to its Expositor ad space and the gateway sign at the information centre.
“In the long run, garbage is an economic issue,” Ms. Jones said, “because landfills are expensive to build and to run. This has to benefit the town.”
Asked about the next steps, the Manitoulin Green Team has plans to meet with other municipalities and First Nation communities, to run a contest for the best and most creative ways to reuse take-out packaging, and will be giving information to the public about landfills and what actually happens there. “Watch out; we may even have a new boogie man character who will come after you if you litter,” Ms. Jones laughed.
Ms. Pheasant says the project is too big for just two people. To that end, the team is looking for a few interested people to be Green Team champions in communities around the Island.
“We’ve been told we’ll never break people of those old habits of throwing the trash out the window, but we don’t accept that,” she said. “We’re asking the younger people who know about recycling to remind the older ones not to toss the trash on the ground and to help them to get it into the correct recycling bins.”