Cleaning up litter in your community? Use it as an opportunity to advocate for lasting change!

Litter is a growing issue, especially this year: as more of us spend time outdoors and in parks, it’s hard to miss the increasing amount of litter and plastic in public spaces. This fall, community groups and individuals across Toronto and Ontario will be getting out to parks and green spaces to clean up litter and preserve our beautiful and natural spaces. 

But litter cleanups aren’t enough - we need to change the system that caused the pollution in the first place. 

Most litter is single-use packaging 

While there are few new additions to the litter commonly found in public spaces - like disposable masks and gloves - the vast majority of litter this year is the same stuff that has been a problem for years: unrecyclable take-out foodware, lightweight food wrappers and bags, and single-use packaging. 

A solution to litter: turn off the plastic tap

This litter is a symptom of a bigger problem: companies are producing too much single-use plastic and packaging, and a lot of this is hard to recycle or ends up in our environment. If we want to make litter cleanups a thing of the past, we need regulations that require all companies to design packaging and products for reuse and recycling - and bans on items that aren’t recyclable. 

The Province of Ontario has the power to reduce litter and pollution by changing regulations:

Right now, the Province is drafting a new regulation for packaging and recycling in Ontario. Let the Province know you want the new regulation to be especially tough on the types of waste that end up as litter, and that companies shouldn’t be allowed to sell things that aren’t recyclable. 

Here are some tips to turn your clean-up into an opportunity to advocate for lasting change:

  1. Document what you find. How much of the litter you found was single-use packaging?  Use tracking sheets or take photographs to show the scale of the problem. 
  2. Share what you find with decision-makers, including Provincial representatives who are developing regulations right now or companies that you think should change their packaging. Send a message to the Premier, the Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks, and your local MPP to let them know what you're finding and that you expect the new recycling regulations will stop this type of litter. 

TIP: Some of the single use items that need tougher regulations are lightweight plastics and wrappers, styrofoam and other take-out food containers.

TIP: Soft drink and juice bottles and cans are good to track - Ontario is one of only two provinces that has this type of litter, since we don't have a deposit on soft drink containers.

Want to learn more about the new Blue Box regulations in development in Ontario? Check out our other articles on the topic here

Emily Alfred is the Waste Campaigner for the Toronto Environmental Alliance (TEA).