The Solo Garbage Picker

It is often thought that volunteer work can only be done through an organization or group. Community work, in general, is associated with charity or even a mandatory task as the outcome of a trial. But what if a person sees a problem to be solved in their surroundings and decides to act? That is what Claire McInroy simply decided in March. She goes out every day to pick up loose waste in her neighborhood. “It gives you a really good sight on human behaviour and what is what when you pick up garbage. You wonder how it ended up there,” says her while observing the ground.


Through the Way

Claire is an ice technician who lives in the suburbs of Scarborough, an area surrounded by domestic gardens, parks, and ravines. Garbage picking is an outdoor activity and she proceeds in a less populated area by square meters than Downtown Toronto. So she hardly finds people in her way. If so, she is able to social distance far more than the recommended 6ft length. Her daily informal volunteering routine consists of getting out every late afternoon with some black garbage bags and a standard trash pick-up tool to collect waste that unties from its designated bins and is carried out in the streets and green areas. Claire basically covers the block where she lives near McCowan road and Brimorton drive intersection. She focuses more on the parks near her. Claire often starts at Amberdale Park and passes through the graveyard and parking lot of St Andrews church. 

Claire McInroy goes solo on her waste management journey. Correction: not so solo as she is accompanied by her dog Abby. The 11-year old golden retriever is a big dog with a calm and friendly personality. Abby never pulls, runs, or goes after the local wild animals because at her age she lost all of that puppy energy and is an elder animal. The fluffy friend stays always by Claire’s side “Because most of the garbage is food packaging, it carries the scent of food and she picks up. I always take something out from her. Napkins are very common and smell most like food. I always prevent her from eating them”. Because disposable napkins are so light, the wind easily carries them out when people are on picnics or even having barbecues in their backyards. 



The Waste Profile

Most of the garbage spread in these areas is related to food packaging. Water bottles, coffee cups, bags, and small boxes from fast-food chains being the majority of this waste. These are dangerous for the local wildlife. Not only dogs feel attracted to it, but foxes, squirrels, and birds try the same because of the food scent. Once these animals eat such materials, they can get intoxicated since this garbage is mostly plastic and harmful pigments for their organs. 


According to Statistics Canada, households throw away around 10 million tonnes each year in the whole country. Ontario is responsible for more than 3 million of this disposal. When a residence fails to properly dispose of the waste in the bins or when animals like raccoons have access to the bags and rip them off searching for food, this is what happens. Spread garbage nearby green areas like Amberdale Park, which is straight and surrounded by houses. Or even pedestrians walking around the area can get caught by a strong wind that carries their napkins and coffee lids. “I’ve figured out the worst things that I’ve found most are plastic water bottles, coffee cups…and lids. And the lids break down into small pieces which end up in the water system which affects our marine life.”

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