Mea Culpa — No teenagers were harmed in the writing of this column. I like teenagers. I hate litter.
After five years of writing in this column about Whistler's annual Pitch In Day, I was feeling a little litter-laced writers' block.
I've railed against smokers who hurl their dirty butts onto the ground (4.5 trillion worldwide per year), waxed nostalgic about the giant owl litter barrels I recall along B.C.'s highways from my youth ("Give a hoot, don't pollute) and profiled the First Whistler Beaver Colony who work hard as part of Scouts Canada to clean up our neighbourhoods every spring (Sharing, Sharing, Sharing). In 2010, I shared a litany of litter tales with the world as I worked and wrote about keeping Whistler clean during the Winter Olympics. This year, I really needed a tale to tell that would resonate with our community, but nothing was hitting me.
Then it hit me. Right in the crotch. It was that hard, clingy kind of plastic that wraps so many of the things we consumers consume daily. Ahead, a group of four young gents was walking through the village enjoying themselves. Another piece of plastic seemingly emerged out of nowhere from the group. Then another. And another.
And then, I saw him... a litterbug. Around 13-years-old, laughing, jostling and jeering with his friends all the while merrily peeling the box of candy in his hands like a plastic orange, peels immediately discarded. I plucked the plastic from my pants and pursued.
"Excuse me, may I talk to you?" I asked the young fellow. "I live here and I really don't think it's cool that you're throwing plastic onto the ground. I don't know where you live, but I certainly wouldn't do this in your town." He said he didn't live in Whistler. I proceeded to point out not one, not two, but three shiny, stainless garbage cans he had walked by whilst perpetrating a litter crime in cold blood.
I handed him the crotch litter which had initiated our relationship and said I could help him pick up the rest. The embarrassment on his face clearly registered as we walked back along the plaza picking up plastic. We placed it in a bin, locked eyes for second, forever bonded by litter and moved on. Here's some interesting research produced by the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup group in 2009:
Four per cent of Canadians admit to littering every day.
Young adults (18-24 year olds) litter most frequently, with 17 per cent admitting that they do it at least once a week — almost twice as often as 25-34 year olds (eight per cent) and 35-44 year olds (seven per cent).
Adults age 25-34 led the pack in doing nothing if they see someone littering (63 per cent).
Canadians over 65 are the most litter-conscientious, with 86 per cent saying they "never" litter.
This Saturday, May 5, we can all work tidily together at Pitch In Day 2012. Organized by the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) roads crew since 1989, this is a great way to offset the damage litterbugs perpetuate here. In 2011, the Pitch In Day groups collected 1.4 tonnes of garbage from Whistler's roadsides. The Whistler Fire Fighters Association hosts a BBQ for all participants with food and drinks donated by local grocers at the Village Fire Hall after the event.
Interested parties should meet at the Public Works Yard (8001 Hwy 99) between 8 and 9 a.m. May 5 to pick up supplies. Give a hoot, don't pollute.
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