St. John’s students clean up “despicable” amount of garbage on Sugarloaf path

More than 30 St. John’s students took time out of their Easter weekend to clean up dozens of bags of garbage along the Sugarloaf path on the East Coast Trail.

In just an hour of cleaning, the students collected 57 bags were collected but said they “barely made a dent” on the amount of trash that is being blown onto the trail from the Robin Hood Bay landfill.

“I don’t think that I have ever been more disgusted by humans,” said Alice Ferguson O’Brien, one of the several volunteers who picked up trash Saturday.

“It was like, absolutely despicable. I don’t think I have ever felt anything comparable to it.”

Left to right: Isabel Martin, Alice Ferguson O’Brien, Abraham Rodgers. (Maggie Gillis/CBC)

Holy Heart of Mary student Abraham Rodgers, who came across the garbage during a run, said the trash was so bad “it looked like snow.”

There were so many bags in the trees we just couldn’t get them.– Isabel Martin

That’s when he decided to see if other students would be willing to help clean up.

“We had a really great turnout,” Rodgers said. The majority of the garbage they found was plastic bags and Styrofoam.

Teachers also got involved by offering volunteer hours, which are mandatory to graduate, to students who were willing to get a little dirty.

“As citizens we are producing the garbage, so I think it is really our role … to protect the environment. I think that it has to be a citizen initiative to clean it up,” said Ferguson O’Brien.

Garbage coming from the dump

The garbage, which is collecting in a 200-metre section on the East Coast Trail located about three kilometres from the marine lab in Logy Bay, is being blown over from the dump.

The students know their hard work might not pay off — if the garbage bags break again at the dump, they will be back in the same situation.

Students and other community members collected more than 50 bags of garbage. (Submitted by Alice Ferguson-O’Brien)

“It’s like a continuous cycle, honestly,” said Holy Heart student Isabel Martin. “There were so many bags in the trees we just couldn’t get them, it was just so hard when we were leaving.”

In fact, there were so many bags that volunteers started using ones they found on the ground.

“The trees are really the only thing that is stopping garbage from getting into the ocean, which is pretty terrifying,” said Ferguson O’Brien.

This is just some of the litter that has become intertwined with the landscape. (Submitted by Alice-Ferguson-O’Brien)

She said while at the landfill, an employee told them an eight-foot fence was going up to prevent the garbage from blowing, but Ferguson O’Brien doesn’t think that’s good enough.

“I think that is really minimal. I think citizens need to commit to keeping our forests and ocean clean,” she said.

The students said they are all in favour of the plastic bag ban the previous Liberal government was working on.

“There is still work we have to do,” Martin said. 

“I think it is just going to be an ongoing battle until there is permanent solutions that have been in place for a while that can really create change.”

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