By John Swartz
Somebody’s got to clean this town up, and Bob Bowles is just the man to do it. Spring clean up that is.
Bowles has lead a community effort to get rid of all the garbage which seems to appear after the snow melts like dandelions do on lawns each year. Where does it all come from?
The answer is us. For some reason, some of us just can’t seem to hang on to coffee cups, beer cans, and all kinds of other stuff until we reach our destinations to toss the stuff.
“They head out to the work site, or whatever, and your coffee is empty by that time and they just throw it out the window. You’ll never change that. I’m convinced of that,” said Bowles.
Don’t get mad, get even. Despite some people’s best efforts to make Orillia look dirty, Bowles and a team of volunteers spend a Saturday morning once a year fanning out though the city and picking it all up.
“That’s the one I started 20 years ago. The last 4 or 5 years I’ve done it through the environmental advisory committee for the City of Orillia,” said Bowles. The number of volunteers varies.
“On a good day sometimes I get over 120, on a bad day I get about 20,” Bowles said. ”It all depends on the weather. I moved it to May 4th this year. I usually have it the end of April, but sometimes we can get snow and ice and it’s just so much fun picking up plastic that’s frozen in the ditches, and coffee cups and things like that, so I moved it. I think I’ll get a good turn out.”
Volunteers will meet at Veteran’s Park on the waterfront at 8:30 a.m. to register for the cleanup. Why register? Early birds get to pick the spots they’ll clean up, and then Bowles can keep track of where people have gone so late comers don’t get sent to the same places.
“As volunteers come in to register we’ll have coffee and hot chocolate and donuts, we have a water mug that’s donated by Brewery Bay and Rustica Pizza, we’ll have coffee travel mugs donated by Gini Stringer from Sunshine Flooring and Carpet and a little reusable lunch bag from Aknor Construction. We give them the gloves and the bags, we’ll send them out, they pick the area of the City, we’ll block that off,” Bowles said. He makes a point of requisitioning these things from a conservation point of view.
“The whole idea is to get rid of the plastic, so we won’t have any disposable coffee cups or water bottles on site. We’ll have water bottles you can take home and keep using and we’ll have coffee travel mugs you can use in your car,” Bowles said.
It’s not like every nook, cranny and how did that get there spot in town is targeted.
“Usually the waterfront, the trails and the streets and the parks we’ll focus on,” said Bowles. And there are rules. Well, objective is a better way to describe it. Orillia does have a recycling program and Bowles wants volunteers to do a little sorting as they pick.
“A lot of stuff we pullout of the ditch has been there all winter, and even before then, and it’s pretty contaminated,” said Bowles. He’s got a two bag system to handle everything. “We go through that with them in the morning, we make sure they have got enough of both kinds of bags and make sure they don’t contaminate. All they have to do is throw a dirty thing in the clear bag and the whole bag goes out,” to landfill instead of recycling.
How much gets collected? The City puts one of their 5 ton trucks at Bowles’s disposal to take what is collected to the waste diversion site.
“Some years we have taken 7 full truck loads,” said Bowles.
“When I first started it, it was an uphill battle. I was picking up a lot of stuff myself and then people came on,” Bowles said. The first time as an organized effort it was still a one man show getting all the pieces in place for cleanup day.
“Twenty years ago, everybody came out and helped me and it was a cold day and they were shivering and I felt sorry, so I went down to Tim Horton’s and I bought them all coffee and donuts and it cost me $150,” Bowles said. Then he gave it some thought upon realizing it could get expensive in subsequent years as more people joined in.
“You’re picking up Tim Horton’s stuff, why don’t you go to Tim Horton’s and see if they’ll donate,” Bowles said, and he had his first sponsor for coffee. Since then as noted above, many others have joined in to provide for volunteers, and things volunteers get to make their day a little more pleasant has grown to an armful. Bob thought of that too.
“I thought it would be great to have a little bag to carry them in,” so he got Aknor Construction to donate swag bags. Of course the day finishes at noon, which happens to be about when people get hungry.
“Pizzaville donates pizza, so we’ll have pizza for them and any of the coffee and hot chocolate that’s left over,” said Bowles. And then the tents and anything left over will be packed up and it will be like no one was ever there.