City hopes to fix trashy reputation
Northern News Services
"Nobody seems to know who owns this trash can," said Benoit, a member of the Yellowknife Get Clean Committee - a group formed last year to tackle the capital's litter problem.
"It's strange, because in the summer the can is fine, but in the winter, it's full and the trash spills out onto the sidewalk."
The garbage can, perched beside a mailbox on 47th Street, has become the poster child for Yellowknife's trashy reputation. With a picture of the overflowing receptacle front and center, Benoit presented city councillors Monday with the results of a year-long probe into the litter problem.
The committee found that almost 70 per cent of people who completed an online survey thought city officials were doing a "bad" or "poor" job of controlling trash.
Benoit had strong words for councillors and administrators, some of whom were not "serious" about solving the litter problem, she said.
"The citizens are angry," Benoit said during the committee meeting a City Hall. Here are some snippets of what people told Benoit and her fellow committee members about litter:
It's everywhere. There is way too much of it for a capital city.
There is more litter here than any other place I have lived in Canada.
It's almost as though we are in a time warp.
Disgusting. Atrocious. Embarrassing.
While some anger was directed at City Hall, Benoit said the responsibility for litter also lies with businesses and citizens. At the root of the problem, the committee said, was general apathy towards keeping Yellowknife clean.
"The community of Yellowknife... is not motivated on the issue of litter," the report said. "That lack of interest may be a result of the widespread idea within the citizenry that nothing can be done about the untidiness of many areas."
The messiest areas in Yellowknife are the downtown core and the Old Airport Road area, the report said. Debris in those areas included everything from broken beer bottles to chunks of cement, to "dog shit," the report said.
While litter in those areas will never disappear, Benoit said something as simple as more garbage cans could dramatically reduce the load.
"There are not enough bins to meet the demand," said Benoit. "If there were, you wouldn't see them overflowing like this," she said pointing the 47th Street offender.
There are 215 public trash cans in Yellowknife. Each cost between $550 to $600, according to the report.
While several citizens criticized the city, Grant White - whose Community Services division is in charge of garbage pickup - said workers are constantly on the lookout for trash.
"Our staff does a fantastic job," he said on Tuesday. "Litter is a priority." And that 47th Street offender... it does not belong to the municipality, he said.
Yellowknife spends about $160,000 cleaning litter - $63,000 of which is devoted to the downtown core, the report said. Almost 20 per cent of the total - $30,000 - is doled during the massive spring clean-up, when melting snow reveals a paved field of long-forgotten trash.
While the report did not examine in detail the effects of litter, anecdotal evidence suggests it bothers everyone from tourists to dog walkers, the report said.
The committee offered several solutions, including a suggestion that officials enforce - more than they have - bylaws that ban littering and require companies to keep a handle on their dumpsters.
City Hall should also pump money into a public relations campaign that encourages people to toss their trash into bins instead of streets, playgrounds and back alleys, Benoit said. "The city needs to take a leadership role," Benoit said.
Benoit and the committee hope that cutting down on litter could even lower the crime rate. Some studies suggest cleaner downtowns discourage vandalism.