Night settles over Huron Village and the residents emerge to put their trash on the curb. However, trash day here also means excess garbage, furniture waste, and lack of recycling.
Miranda Powell, a resident and environmentalist, decided it was time to make a difference in her community.
“I noticed how bad the garbage here was when I first moved in,” said Powell. “Weeks would go on with no change and after a while I felt like I couldn’t not do something about it.”
Since then, Powell spends her Tuesday evenings and Wednesday mornings prowling the streets. She tries to grab as much as possible, but mainly focuses on collecting furniture and plastic items.
“One thing that I see a lot on the street are children’s toys, which are almost always made from plastic. The unfortunate part is that these items could easily be donated to plenty of different places.”
Powell does exactly that once she collects the items. She finds that Goodwill is eager and accepting of most items she offers them. Anything she doesn’t donate she posts on Facebook Marketplace or repurposes for personal use.
Powell always accepts help from anyone who wants to join her on trash days. Grace Currie, Powell’s roommate, was shocked on her first outing.
“I don’t normally join Miranda when she goes out but after a while I just wanted to see,” said Currie. “I knew it would be bad but still, I couldn’t believe how much stuff she was finding in perfect condition.”
Powell says there are a couple of other non-residents who will join in on the collecting.
“The other people that collect usually only go for specific items. The one guy always grabs appliances, so I leave those out for him when I see them.”
Why do neighbourhoods like this have these issues? Powell believes it comes down to ignorance and lack of accountability.
“People come and go from this neighbourhood all the time, and they leave everything they don’t want behind before they go,” said Powell. “It definitely seems like people just don’t know the damage they’re causing, and once one house does it the rest feel okay doing the same.”
What environmental damage are these people causing?
Plastic, furniture waste, and high volumes of garbage all end up in garbage dumps and landfills, which have a negative effect on climate change. Landfills release potent greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. The space these facilities take up is damaging to ecosystems and natural wildlife habitats.
Aside from cleaning up her neighbourhood, Powell is also a full-time substitute teacher and will be leaving Huron Village for Waterloo in the coming months.
“I almost feel guilty leaving, like I have a responsibility to stay. It feels good to know there are other people who’ve seen how bad it is and come to clean up as well.”