Cleaning up in the Klondike

Now that the snow is completely gone, it’s a little bit depressing to see how much garbage it was hiding.

We had begun to notice this in a cursory sort of way once the warmer weather began transforming our dog-walking from a necessary chore to a pleasant outing. Later we took it more seriously, but I’ll get to that.

There are candy wrappers everywhere: chocolate bars, chips, cheesies and other packaging. Since most of these are made of some type of plastic these days, they will linger around for some time to come.

It’s no wonder that Yukon Government is willing to pay non-profit organizations to go out and clean up segments of the territory’s highways at $250 for a stretch of 2.5 kilometers.

When our church signed up for some highway duty (there are a lot of repairs needed for our heritage buildings), it happened that the chosen date was one where we were going to be away, so we wondered what else we might do.

That was when my wife, Betty, began a mental inventory of the stuff we’d been seeing during our walks and realized that a fair percentage of it was recyclable cans and bottles. So we started taking a single plastic grocery bag with us on each walk just to see how it might work out.

You might be wondering why we weren’t carrying a bag already for doggy stuff. We used to with our old dog, Joule, but Shadow is most particular about her needs. She will sometimes, though not always, stop to water the grass along the streets, but she has no interest at all in leaving deposits of anything more solid anywhere but at home.

We’ve compared notes on this and, adding up all walks, both individual and together, we can count all the exceptions to this behavior over the last 19 months on one hand. Switching coats with the seasons we keep finding unused bags that got put away with coats as the weather got colder and them warmer last year.

But I digress. The subject was bottles and cans.

On an average stroll of under an hour we are filling a grocery bag with about 23 cans (mostly beer) and assorted bottles. This happens no matter what direction we walk in and does not require any particular effort on our part.

Most of the cans are undamaged, though some have been compressed by stomping or have been run over by vehicles and partially embedded in the road. Some have been there a long, long time, but most are fairly fresh.

Indeed some are so fresh as to never have been opened, and we dump them before adding them to the bag. It’s also surprising how many of them contain partial contents.

That there are so many in the streets and ditches speaks poorly of enforcement of the town’s ban on public drinking. It’s even more depressing when you consider that the locations of many of them make you think they were likely tossed from moving vehicles.

I don’t know if the general litter problem we have here could be alleviated by the simple expedient of placing more publicly-accessible garbage cans around the town. It seems worth a try, but I have a feeling our little fund-raising exercise will continue to meet with success throughout the summer.

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