Cigarette butts and dog poop.
It’s hard to imagine that in a society as evolved as Vancouver prides itself to be, so many residents still believe it’s OK to dump in our streets and parks. On the plus side it’s not often I get to write about two pet peeves at the same time and since both cigarette butts and dog poop hit the radar this week, I saw it as an opportunity not to be missed.
Green Party Coun. Adriane Carr brought a motion to council Tuesday morning, after my press deadline, asking staff to explore ways to reduce cigarette butt litter. Discarded cigarette butts are a huge problem in this city and not just because they’re unsightly. Cigarette butts are toxic when ingested by children, birds or animals, not to mention the fish, whales and dolphins that accidentally swallow them once they’ve been washed out to the ocean through our drainage systems.
In the past, I’ve written about the grotesquely large number of butts picked up each year during the TD Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, which in 2007 gathered more than 270,000 cigarette butts in one day. That same year the non-profit environmental group PITCH-IN CANADA helped organize a one-day coastal clean up in co-operation with countries from around the world in which almost a million cigarette butts were collected. I’m guessing those numbers have increased since then, despite a full-on smoking ban on Vancouver beaches introduced last year.
Violators flicking their still burning cigarettes from moving vehicles are also a problem. I’m astounded to watch drivers carelessly toss their burning butts out the window with no thought to the motorcyclist behind them or smoking bans due to dry weather and a high fire risk.
So just as I supported the park board’s move to ban smoking from beaches and parks, I also applaud Carr’s motion to reduce cigarette butt litter. Carr’s plan is a no-brainer—install receptacles in the few public places where smoking is still allowed. Smokers being smokers it’s hard to say if they’ll actually use them, but it’s a start.
Meanwhile, community activist Eileen Mosca has come up with a plan to help reduce dog poop on our streets and in our parks. Mosca has created a Facebook page for what she calls “Poop Angels.” Again, it’s a simple plan. Mosca is asking responsible dog owners who always pick up after their pets to take extra bags on their walks and pick up feces left behind by their thoughtless counterparts. Mosca told me after she and a friend regularly picked up dog poo during their walks, her friend dubbed the pair “Poop Angels,” and the idea was born. The name reminded Mosca of the city’s Snow Angels program, through which residents help shovel out their neighbours following a snowfall.
“So I figured that Vancouverites are open to doing good deeds, especially if the possibilities are presented to them as the Snow Angels program had been,” says Mosca. “Poop Angels is not such a lovely, resonant name and it is far more anonymous, but it’s one small thing a person can do to make this city a better place.”
Mosca points out there’s no organization to join and volunteers don’t sign up for anything.
“It’s just an idea and a Facebook page where people can share comments and maybe see what others are doing,” she says.Mosca wants dog owners to consider it an anonymous act of kindness.
“By these small acts of consideration for others, we can solve this problem at a grassroots level, one turd at a time,” Mosca writes on the Poop Angels Facebook page.
Let’s take it one step further and double the $250 fines now levied at irresponsible dog owners and thoughtless smokers for first offences. Perhaps a $500 ticket will finally convince violators this city is not their personal dumping ground.