Limestone City or Litter City
There is a familiar but nameless figure often seen walking throughout the neighbourhoods of Kingston east end.
Robert Charest has walked the area daily for the last four years. What makes Robert walks unique however, is that he picks up litter as he walks. The tall, upright man, sometimes wearing a florescent scarf, can be seen in the morning, pushing his walker and utilizing a cane and an arm extender that lie across the top of his walker.
The cane and the arm extender do not stay still for long. The walker comes to a stop as Robert skilfully swings his tools to the ground and makes his way toward a piece of garbage. He picks up the garbage but moves further away to pick up more. There is no shortage of litter. Preferring to call the walker cart, the cane walking stick and the arm extender grabber, Robert is a 60 year old retired Lieutenant Commander adidas gazelle from the Canadian Forces. His daily walks consist of four routes in King adidas gazelle ston East; each route is a struggle to maintain forward movement due to frequent stops to pick up garbage.
Accompanying Robert on a Good Friday morning walk, he said he started picking up garbage while walking the trail behind his neighbourhood. Coming across a shattered liquor bottle and glass spread out over the path, Robert was concerned about the children on bikes that would soon be coming behind him.
gotta be picked up right away, he thought to himself. And so began his mandate.
is created by many means, Robert says, as he moves the cart down the slope into the ditch. With his stick supporting him on the left, his grabber working on the right, he collects a good haul of litter.
of the garbage in this spot comes from the shopping centre, part of it comes from people overfilled recycle boxes, and the rest is from someone that just throws it down. is bad I was here just two days ago he laments.
After clearing the area, he heaves the cart methodically back uphill, a lift and step choreography that he has mastered. Confronting some serious medical issues, Robert says, suffer some chronic pain, but I don worry about the pain, I don think of the pain, I think about the piece of garbage that 20 feet a adidas gazelle way that I have to pick up. walks last from two to three hours, depending on the amount of garbage. We walked for three hours and, after measuring the route later, it was 2 km in length, although my own legs told me it was closer to 10 km due to the constant moving back and forth, left and right, with Robert as he picked up litter. The walks make him feel good, although he admits it a bit ironic how a university educated former officer is spending his retirement.
got someone with six years of university picking up garbage. Kinda funny huh? he adds.
Married with two grown daughters, Robert is usually accompanied by his wife Joan who assists in the clean up but whose focus is the walk itself. Joan prefers the back trail route to Tim Hortons on Hwy. 15 and is often 15 minutes ahead of Robert as he continues to stop to collect garbage and compress it into the bag attached to his cart. Collecting an average of four bags per trip, he has to make regular dumps at various spots. The city, he says, is very good with the placement of numerous garbage cans in the area. Sometimes he uses the bin at Tim Hortons but is concerned that staff might address him for doing so.
However, a lot of the dumping consists of Tim Hortons cups.
Horton cups are everywhere, he says. So too are plastic water bottles, someone drinks a water bottle while they walking and empties it, when it empty it lighter, not too heavy to carry to a garbage can he observes.
He has identified the regular patterns of some litterbugs; there the Man whose plastic tipped filters are a bane for Robert, as are small pieces of paper. He picks up the garbage with his grabber but due to the prongs being worn down he has trouble with the small items.
three tries, I move on he says, (although I watched him repeatedly attempt six, seven, eight times, and when all else failed, he bent down to pick up the litter). He has repaired his grabber by wrapping tape at the ends of the prongs and fixed the lever handle with a nail. Good grabbers are hard to find he says and is on the lookout for a new one.
Although he doesn seek recognition for his effort, numerous vehicles would sound their horns in passing and individuals, couples, and families out for a walk would stop to express their thanks. Robert accepts their appreciation, not with bravado, but with a smile and a nod. He saves his favourite responses for the children by reaching to a bubble squeeze bike horn attached to the handle of the cart, honk. have some fun, he says.
Asked for his opinion on the global environmental movement, (including reducing fossil fuels, promoting green energy, the issue of global warming, and the city own sustainability plan), and how it relates to picking up litter, Robert responds: is not as glamorous. it is not. Eliminating litter from our city is a building block to further environmental solutions. However, litter is a historic problem at the lowest common denominator that we have yet to solve. How can we adidas gazelle eliminate litter? Stop littering.
Robert concludes: is my community, my neighbourhood, why does it have to be a dump space? I equate this to a living room in a home; we all share the living room, so it belongs to everyone in the community. O’Brien, a member of the Whig Standard’s Community Editorial Board, is a Warrant Officer in the Canadian Forces. He lives in Kingston with his wife and two sons.