By: Aryan Gidwani
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Toronto saw a rise in littering in parks and recreational areas. Shadi Moqbel, a civil engineer who studies litter and waste, finds that “as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, people tend to move towards using disposable items rather than regular reusable items” in an attempt to reduce their risk of contracting the virus. However, it comes at a time where humans should be reducing the usage of plastic.
Littering has a devastating effect on the environment. A total of 1.9 billion tonnes find their way to oceans, with harsh impacts on water purity and marine wildlife. Aquatic animals unintentionally eat the plastic due to its microscopic size, which increases the chance of lethal infections. Within my community, littering has made Lake Ontario the most littered and polluted Great Lake. Much of the litter found in the lake flows its way to the Atlantic Ocean through the St. Lawrence river. As of 2014, around 6.7 million plastic particles were found in a single square kilometre radius of lake Ontario. As a resident of Toronto, there is a plethora of litter residing in water and in closed corners in outdoor areas and parks. Trash bags, plastic bags, soda cans, and plastic bottles are objects that can be found throughout the city’s parks.
On average, it costs the city of Toronto at least 27 million dollars to clean the litter from green spaces in the city. On top of this, the pandemic forced the city to pay an extra 273,000 dollars from March to September last year.
With all this in mind, I believe that in order to prevent this issue from surging, it is important to think about the causes. Education can inform people about the risks and the importance of keeping our areas clean. Another way that this can be prevented further is through spreading awareness through volunteering, like going on garbage runs with a stick and bag, which can be a simple, effective way to reduce littering.
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Goffin, Peter. “What Sort of Garbage Enters Lake Ontario? Researchers Probe Aquatic Trash.” CTVNews, CTV News, 3 Aug. 2018, http://www.ctvnews.ca/lifestyle/what-sort-of-garbage-enters-lake-ontario-researchers-probe-aquatic-trash-1.4039924.
Ro, Christine. “Why Litter Is Surging as Lockdowns Ease.” BBC Worklife, BBC, 10 Jun. 2020, http://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20200610-why-are-parks-full-of-litter-as-lockdown-eases.
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