Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/7/2015 (2544 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Monday’s column about a city cop who gave a motorist a littering citation for tossing sunflower-seed husks out his sunroof — and whether the ticket treatment was deserved — has inspired broader, more important questions.
About our environment and littering in general. About all the discarded cigarette butts, candy bar wrappers and Slurpee cups on our streets and in our parks, about the scourge that is roadside dumping, and about the responsibility we all have to keep our city clean.
That said, meet Bill Fisher, Winnipeg’s own Mr. Clean Up.
The 68-year-old former school teacher has a unique perspective on garbage, one that has compelled him to take the matter into his own carefully gloved hands.
Bill resides beside the South Perimeter near the Brady Road Landfill, more commonly called The Dump.
He’s lived in the area since he was a kid, before The Dump was there, before all the illegal dumping around it.
I was only introduced to Bill on Monday when he wrote to the editor, commending the police officer who handed out the littering ticket for sunflower-seed husks.
"Littering," Bill wrote, "is making Winnipeg an eyesore."
It was something else he mentioned in his letter – about what he and his wife have done in their corner of the world -- that prompted me to call him.
Last month, he and his wife spent three weeks gathering trailer loads of garbage from the ditches along the South Perimeter and taking it where it belongs. The Dump. They did that until their backs gave in. Then they started again the next day. After a few days they got the provincial highways department to supply the bags and, when the two senior citizens had packed them, the highways workers trucked them away.
Actually, I suppose you could call them Mr. and Mrs. Clean Up because they’re still doing daily maintenance of the highway ditches.
But the trash wasn’t -- and still isn’t -- just the kind we’ve all seen in the ditch; the Tim Hortons cups, soft-drink cans, and beer bottles.
No, the couple regularly find "loaded" diapers and bottles full of urine, apparently the product of travelers in a hurry to go.
And leave us -- and especially Mr. and Mrs. Clean Up -- with their mess. "It seems to have really slipped in the last few years, in terms of the cleanliness and the garbage," Bill said. "I think it gets to be almost a disease when I see the dumping along Brady Road, north of The Dump."
It’s people being pigs to save the few bucks it would cost to cart their garbage to the landfill.
"And the more it’s done, the more it’s done."
Then there’s the unintended dumping, the paper and bags and assorted other trash that flies off trucks on their way to The Dump.
It all makes for a never-ending job for Mr. and Mrs. Clean Up, even with the road-side pick-up assistance of the highways department.
But one day, in the rain, they managed to get help from a teenage grandson. And that experience had a big impact on him, as Bill recalled. "He said, ‘You know, I used to litter. And after seeing the effects of that kind of stuff, I’m not doing it anymore’."
I told Bill that’s why, each spring, every school in the city should be sending their students out to clean up the mess left behind by themselves, or others.
Bill said when he was a teacher in the Brooklands area, his school did that.
"We’d go out and they’d clean up the neighbourhood. We had to be kind of careful. We had to make sure the kids all wore gloves. Because in that area there were a lot of needles and stuff you wouldn’t want them contacting."
But, Bill added, that was a fun outing for the kids.
They even turned it into a contest to see which class could collect the most garbage.
"They really hustled," Bill recalled. "And their own area got cleaned up because of it."
That kind of exercise in environmental awareness, I suggested, might even have had the same affect on some of them as it did on Bill’s grandson.
"I would hope so," Bill said.
That prompted me to share my own hope for the city as a whole.
I’d like to see the mayor and council challenge everyone – from school kids to grandparents -- to do their parts and earn our much-maligned city a title that would make us the envy of the nation.
How would this sound?
"Winnipeg: The Cleanest City in Canada."
We could even add a kicker.
"Winnipeg: The city that won’t put up with your garbage."
Not even sunflower seeds.