A big thank you to everyone, up and down the valley, who helped with the Community Cleanup this year — it really speaks volumes about our communities. Starting with Earth Day on Tuesday and finishing on Saturday, communities rallied their locals, service clubs, and second homeowners to come out and spend some time getting to know each other, all while picking up the winter debris that gets hidden under blankets of snow.
On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of meeting the Grades 3 and 4 students from Edgewater Elementary School as they got bused to Radium to do cleanup on Earth Day. Before I met with them, I decided to do some research on littering. Personally, I was brought up to never throw anything on the ground, and am proud to say I still do not litter to this day (lots of gum wrappers and tissues in my pockets!) I asked the kids if they knew what the most littered item in the world was. I received answers such as pop cans, candy wrappers and then, finally, one boy said “smokes.” He was absolutely right — cigarette butts are the most littered item in the world, with 4.5 trillion discarded annually.
Estimates on the required time for cigarette butts to break down vary. They range from five years to 400 years for complete degradation. Cigarette butts and filters are a threat to our wildlife and have been found in the stomachs of fish, birds and other animals, who have mistaken them for food. They were the most picked up item on cleanup day as well.
Municipalities and businesses need to provide better receptacles for people to “butt out.” I also found out, while doing my research, that over half of the litter on roadways is a result of accidental or unintentional littering, usually garbage that falls off of improperly secured trash or from recycling vehicles and pickup trucks.
So keeping a small trash bag in your car to throw away any soda cups, losing scratch tickets, tissues, cigarette butts or anything else you may need to discard may not be a bad idea! I couldn’t believe the number of bags of trash that Radium Sunshine Rotary filled up on their Radium mile hill cleanup!
Thanks to all members for their yearly dedication to keeping our valley clean and pristine. By the turnout in Radium for cleanup I know that each and every one of us is proud to call the valley home. We are ready to show off our clean environment (we just need a bit of sunshine!) Happy May everyone!
Dee Conklin is the mayor of the Village of Radium Hot Springs and a Regional District of East Kootenay director for the Columbia Valley.