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An amazing amount of garbage goes to waste every day.  Too bad that quite a bit of that refuse is thrown on the side of the road.  My neighbourhood street gets more than a fair share. A lot of that junk is plastic.  Plastics by the ton ends up in the ocean, every day.

In September of 2020, I completed a project with which I’d been involved the past few years.  I decided I needed to turn my attention to some new focus.  I thought the environment would be a good place to take a stand.  It came to mind to begin small, in my own "backyard", so beginning  on Thanksgiving weekend I began picking up the waste tossed along the street and driveway where I live.  Going out every three days, I bagged eight large bags and eighteen grocery bags of garbage.  That was in just four weeks.  There will be more to gather as time goes on.

The source of all the disposed material is driven by indifference and ignorance.  People like to eat and drink conveniently, and then toss out the refuse.  There are wrappings and boxes, cups and lids, napkins and bags.  Every time I go out I bag a few plastic straws.  Though I am not really keeping track, a vendor connected to a hockey player seems to compete for first place in quantity of garbage with another shop that has arches.  A starry-eyed place comes in third.  Pizza boxes are popular item for littering.  Beer and pop bottles outnumber water bottles.  

There are some unspeakable items that are tossed on the sidewalks.  Sometimes I not only pick up the gum package, I also find the chewed gum.  I do not pick up cigarette butts but I do lift up the cigarette packages.  Also I do not touch needles and syringes and a few other more risky items.

I notice that some good citizens, probably not wanting to let their neighbours know they have garbage, have no qualms about tossing their household bag of garbage on my street.  These larger amounts I do not dispose of as who knows what they may contain.

When I was a boy I can remember that folks (at least in the Okanagan) took pride in the clean roads and highways. What has happened to that value, that responsibility towards others?

The plastic straw thrown carelessly away breaks down into strips. The strips break down into threads. The threads get washed down the storm drains. The contaminated water in the storm drain eventually makes it to the ocean.  Then we recover the bits of plastic from the belly of the whale that has washed up dead upon the beach. 

There is a reason why I have chosen to pick up not only my own garbage, but that of unthinking and irresponsible "neighbours" as well.  It is because I love my island home, planet Earth.

As a Christian and a member of the Anglican Church I cannot just leave the garbage lie.  There is theological consideration for taking care of life, stewardship to address, and nurturing to carry out for the loving God and care of neighbour.  The Anglican Baptismal Covenant asks, "Will you strive to safeguard the integrity of God's creation and respect, sustain, and renew the life of earth?"  We answer, "I will, with God's help." That is a serious call for the environment to be cared for.

We all need to safeguard the land and sea and air.  We all need to respect the grass and the trees, the birds and the bees.  We all need to be keepers of our surroundings.  It is my opinion that all of us can do our part even more than we think we are doing now.

Well, I have to fetch my gloves and the picker upper, a couple of bags as well, and get out to my "backyard" to do my bit.  Thank goodness that covenant says that God is my helper.

Art Turnbull, is  Retired Priest of the Diocese of Ontario, and also serves as an Honorary Assistant Priest in the Diocese of New Westminster

Photo Brian A Jackson

Stock photo ID:1183347762