It all began as a way to have a cup of coffee. When Cecil Bayliss and Abe Krauss could no longer enjoy an in-restaurant coffee to start their day due to COVID restrictions they took it to go, starting their day in their old pickup, cleaning up garbage and beer cans as they travelled country roads. That began April 1, 2020, and the rest they say is history.
And while they still make a coffee part of their day, their campaign to rid the countryside of litter has only intensified, with set routes a part of their daily routine, and an official name.
"We call it Environmental Clean-up: One Piece at a Time," Bayliss said.
The two Grunthal men, in their late 60’s, will travel the roadways in their 1998 Chevy pickup, and even winter didn’t stop their mission.
"We never missed a month," he said.
As gas costs rise, the pair say they may have to go down to four days a week, instead of the current five. While they supplement their costs by finding beer cans, Bayliss estimates they spend $250 monthly for gas and repairs.
Yet the need is greater than ever.
"In March we couldn’t believe it," Bayliss said. "We picked 11 bags (of beer cans)." That’s close to 1,600 cans.
Word of their hard work has gotten out, and the pair say they find cans and bottles that have been stood up at the side of the road, waiting for them to come by.
Some support has been trickling in.
Bayliss said they have "a kind soul" who keeps the truck running at cost. They’ve received the odd cash donation from people who’ve seen the difference they make. But at the end of the day, they are cleaning the environment from their own resources.
"I’m living off my pension," Bayliss said. "I’m starting to get a little short of funds now."
A typical month will see the pair get about 600 beer cans and about 200 pop cans. They clean an area from Provincial Road 303 to Provincial Road 403 and from Highway 59 to Highway 12.
They are also finding used masks, water bottles, fast food garbage and coffee cups.
Bayliss said it’s upsetting when one realizes the danger the fast food cups and other garbage pose to wildlife.
"We’re really killing our animals by throwing our garbage out and it’s really effecting the environment," he said.
Antifreeze and oil jugs are also spotted in ditches, and Bayliss said they’d love to see people think before they toss their trash.
"We’re not trying to be rude, we’re not trying to hurt the community," he said of their bid for people to litter less.
The two will accept donations, which can come in the form of beer cans as well.
"We will pick up cans at their doorstep if it’s not too far out of our way," he said. "If you’ve got 40 or 50 kicking around your garage, donate them to us and we’ll put them toward the fuel."
The labour of love also offers health benefits to the men. Bayliss deals with diabetes while Krauss has a bad knee. Both say their walks have been a blessing to their health.
And while they’d love to see less litter, the pair expect to continue the tradition, improving the environment, one piece of garbage at a time.