Litter. It has negative impacts on the environment, ecosystems, wildlife, pets and humans alike, and can transform a previously gorgeous place into an unsightly scene. Litter is also expensive in terms of cleanup and health costs. How and why does it get there? Litter tends to crowd our public areas when there aren’t proper means of accessible, convenient or effectively placed disposal access. According to the Canadian Plastics Industry Association, up to 4% of Canadians may litter every day, while one in three Canadians has littered in their lifetime.
What technically qualifies as litter? In short, litter is any material or product people leave somewhere it doesn’t belong. By adding commercial trash cans to places like public parks or recreation centers, Canada can cut down on litter and move toward a cleaner environment.
Tips for Positioning Commercial Trash Cans
Where does Canada rank when it comes to litter? In 2013, the Conference Board of Canada gave Canada a “C” grade when it came to environmental performance, as Canada was the top producer of garbage per capita among all other countries. Fast-forward to 2019, where USA Today named Canada the world’s top producer of waste. The U.S. — which spends more than $11.5 billion on litter removal annually — came in third place. Canada produces about 36.1 metric tons of waste each year per capita, totalling more than 1.3 billion metric tons of waste annually — roughly 36.1 tonnes per person.
Canada’s waste problem is also costly, as waste management spending increased 42% from 2008 to 2016. Although Canada has already taken some of the appropriate steps to address environmental concerns, like banning plastic microbeads in toiletries and announcing a single-use plastic ban to take effect within the next two years, there are still ways for Canada to address its litter problem. It starts with commercial trash cans.
To cut down on litter in your public parks, recreation centers, churches or other religious organizations, schools and daycares or any other market, consider the following:
- Position trash cans at busy spots and space them accordingly.
- Up the trash can count.
- Use signage.
- Reduce cigarette litter with urns or ashtray tops.
- Include a place to get rid of pet waste.
- Keep trash cans covered.
- Use colourful trash cans.
- Keep property clean and tidy.
- Use recycling bins.
- Educate the public.
1. Position Trash Cans at Busy Spots and Space Them Accordingly
These days, just having one or two trash cans present near your public park, school, business or other commercial setting isn’t enough to fully combat the litter problem. However, location can help. By methodically placing commercial trash cans around your public park or other areas, you can cut down on trash. But where are the best places to position these trash cans? To start, you could conduct a litter audit of your area to figure out how much and what kind of litter people are tossing, so you know what litter you’re aiming to eliminate, as well as the type of receptacles to use and where to position them.
As a typical rule of thumb, think transition points. According to Keep America Beautiful, the most non-roadway litter occurred at transition points — entrances where people must discard any trash as they go in. Place trash cans here, and consider other ways people move around the area and use trash cans to optimize their use and decrease littering. Seating areas, like park benches or picnic tables, could also attract litter, so ensure you have trash cans close by.
Spacing is also vital when it comes to minimizing trash. Keep America Beautiful found the distance to the trash can at the time of disposal negatively impacts littering. As the distance to the nearest trash receptacle increases, so does littering. After observing people littering in public spaces, Keep America Beautiful found that the nearest trash receptacle was 29 feet away, on average. When people were within 10 feet of the receptacle, the litter rate decreased to 12%, whereas the litter rate was just over 20% when people were 21 to 30 feet from the trash can. The Walt Disney Company studied customers’ behaviour when it comes to the trash at entertainment parks and shopping areas and found that commercial trash receptacles must be within 30 steps to result in proper disposal.
2. Up the Trash Can Count
Before you start positioning your trash cans inside and outside your establishment, you must have enough to do so. Just like placement, the number of trash cans can have a significant impact on how much litter is around your area. With plenty of trash cans, people can’t make excuses that they didn’t see any receptacles nearby. After all, Canadians will generally walk roughly 12 steps in search of a trash can before giving up. By adding more trash cans on the property, you’re encouraging good habits, which may lead to less litter.
Keep America Beautiful conducted a study regarding the disposal behaviour of nearly 10,000 people from 10 different states in 130 different locations. They found all but two locations had litter present, despite the fact that 118 out of the 130 sites — 91% — had at least one trash can. Although litter behaviour relies heavily on individual, contextual demands, such as having plenty of trash cans readily available for public disposal, do play a role. Since the availability of trash receptacles has a positive effect on littering, consider stocking up on commercial garbage cans for your public park, recreational area, church or other places of worship, school or business to increase your efforts and stop litter from piling up.
3. Emphasize Recycling
Introducing recycling bins to Canada’s public parks or other public areas can also help reduce trash and litter. Every year, Canada recycles only about 30% of the total 31 million tonnes of garbage they produce. On top of that, the Recycling Council of British Columbia says approximately 67.2% of Canada’s garbage ends up in one of more than 10,000 landfill sites. While paper takes about 80 years to break down and aluminum cans take 500 years to fully disintegrate, plastic takes 1 million years to decompose. Up to 30% of what consumers put into Ontario’s blue boxes ends up in landfills, and Ontario hasn’t seen improved recycling rates in more than 15 years. Help Canada’s recycling efforts and add commercial recycling containers alongside your commercial trash cans.
When it comes to plastic alone, Canadians are responsible for throwing away more than 3 million tonnes each year and recycling only 9% of it. If Canada kept these same plastic recycling habits, the amount of plastic thrown away in Canada could equate to $11 billion in 2030. Plus, with more than 150 million tonnes of plastic in the world’s oceans, plastic has the potential to outweigh fish in the oceans by 2050.
To combat this, Canada plans to ban single-use plastics as early as 2021 and reduce plastic waste by 75% by 2030. This plan includes increasing recycling efforts as well, so it’s the perfect time to add commercial recycling bins if you haven’t already. When it comes to the environment, many consumers care about the issues and feel a moral duty to protect it, so environmentally conscious acts, like recycling, evoke positive emotions and make people feel good.
4. Use Signage
For many people, throwing away trash is instinctual. However, for all of those who may need an extra reminder, consider hanging signage around your commercial trash containers in areas that are typically densely populated. This practice could be especially useful for commercial outdoor trash cans in places like parks, where litter is typical. As 65% of the population are visual learners, signage is an excellent way to educate guests in your area and serve as a reminder to throw trash away.
According to the Journal of Environmental Psychology, there are four main stages when it comes to processing information on signage that may lead to behavioural change:
- Grab attention.
- Make it easy to understand.
- Change attitudes and beliefs.
Since most of the population are visual learners, images are typically a safe bet to use for signage. However, keep images simple for faster response times, since some may find more complex imagery harder to understand. After all, younger people are more likely to litter than older individuals, so your signage needs to reflect this and attract the younger crowd. Plus, the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that picture and icon signs result in better performance when it comes to proper disposal behaviour, rather than signs that only have words. Additionally, position signs consistently to lead to better performance. To reduce litter, consider hanging signage with prevention messaging at eye level or above your trash cans or directly on your receptacles.
5. Reduce Cigarette Litter With Urns or Ashtray Tops
The most common type of litter in Canada? Cigarettes. Canadians drop more than 8,000 tonnes of cigarette butts every year. In 2013, volunteers working for Canada’s Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup picked up 353,941 cigarette butts alone along waterways. In 2018, they collected 560,432. But cigarettes aren’t just a problem in Canada — they are the most littered item in the world. One way to combat cigarette litter is by ensuring there are proper methods of disposal present, like urns or ashtray tops.
Cigarettes are incredibly harmful to the environment, as they contain toxins that can get into the water supply and poison wildlife. They do not decompose on their own due to cellulose acetate — the plastic found in cigarette filters — and can take 12 years to break down. One Canadian police chief from Victoria issued a driver a $575 fine for violating the Wildfire Act after they threw their lit cigarette out of their car window. According to the British Columbia Wildfire Service, factors like still-lit littered cigarette butts contribute to the human-caused wildfires — 40% of all wildfires — in the province.
In public spaces like parks, the number of ash receptacles has a major influence on cigarette littering. More than a third of all cigarette butt litter has to do with the environment, which includes the number of ash receptacles available. One study suggests that for every ash receptacle added, cigarette butt littering would decrease by 9% from the 65% initial base littering rate. Additionally, the lack of ash receptacles on your park or other property can lead to higher rates of littering in general. Keep litter down and cigarettes off the ground. Make sure you have plenty of methods of cigarette disposal, like ashtray tops, readily available.
6. Include Places to Get Rid of Pet Waste
Pet waste, when left on sidewalks or in parks untreated, is not only smelly and gross, but can also have severe environmental effects. This waste can get into Canada’s rivers, streams and lakes, which can end up polluting beaches and pose a hazard to all plants, animals and people who may come in contact with it. Some U.S. studies have found dog waste is responsible for 20 to 30% of bacteria in urban watershed water samples, which can lead to disease. In a survey of pet owners along the East Coast of the U.S., 40% of people did not clean up their pets’ waste. While owners should take responsibility for cleaning up after their pet, you can equip your public space with the necessary supplies to properly dispose of the waste.
While Toronto’s Green Bin program, for example, accepts animal waste, preferred disposal methods vary from place to place. According to the Canadian Public Health Association, Vancouver pet owners must pick up and deposit the waste in a suitable refuse container. Ottawa requires owners to flush the waste down the toilet or wrap it up in absorbent paper and put it in a closed, leak-proof bag along with regular garbage, as long as it makes up less than 11% of the garbage can or bag’s total volume. To keep your park or other public area clean, establish rules for getting rid of pet waste and provide visitors with a designated place for proper disposal.
7. Keep Trash Cans Covered
Blustery winds and inclement weather can easily prey on uncovered or poorly covered trash cans outside, resulting in sopping, scattered litter after blowing a park’s trash out of the receptacle. Keep your trash secure and invest in durable covers that can last through any conditions. You may opt for a dome top for maximum weather protection, but remember, guests will have to push the door open to throw their trash away, so you must maintain and clean these covers. Hooded tops or rain bonnets also protect trash and keep it dry through storms. Keep your trash cans covered to protect your trash and minimize escaping litter.
8. Use Colourful Trash Cans
Who said all trash cans have to be neutral-coloured? For attention-grabbing trash cans that stand out and are easy for visitors to find, consider using colourful trashcans for your public park, recreation center, church or other places of worship, schools or businesses. With eye-catching trash cans, visitors can locate receptacles much more easily and may be more prone to throwing their trash away instead of littering. Brightly coloured, themed or decorative commercial trash cans attract more garbage than the typical plain trash can. Plus, if you have receptacles for different uses, colour-coding them avoids confusion and keeps visitors’ disposables orderly.
9. Keep Property Clean and Tidy
It’s simple — littered environments attract more litter. If someone already covered a park or public space in trash, chances are the next litterbug who comes by won’t think twice before discarding their food wrapper or empty bottle on the ground. On the other hand, the same person would likely feel more guilty littering in an otherwise spotless park. One of the best ways to deter litter is by keeping the property well-maintained and welcoming.
Keep America Beautiful found existing litter was one of the most influential contributing factors to littering. In recreational areas, such as public parks, there was an average of 105 littered items per thousand square feet. Pedestrians are the primary source for this litter, responsible for an estimated 98.5% of it. Not only does litter multiply, but it can also lead to fewer visitors. If people see litter every time they go to the park, they are probably less likely to continue returning. It’s not just in parks — litter can negatively impact many different areas. The National Association of Home Builders even said litter present on a property could reduce its value in the neighbourhood by more than 7%. In some cases, this percentage was even higher.
How can we enhance efforts to stop litter from taking over public spaces?
- Empty trash cans regularly and have staff adopt a schedule if necessary.
- Empty trash before it gets full, not after it begins to overflow.
- Ensure your large commercial trash cans are big enough for your area’s waste needs, but not so big that trash goes unchanged for days.
- Pick up litter to maintain the property’s appearance.
- Do these in conjunction with the other litter prevention tips mentioned here.
10. Educate the Public
Littering often stems from a lack of personal responsibility and starts at a young age. While some littering behaviour can be due to contextual demands, like not having enough receptacles, 85% of littering behaviour results from the individual. What’s the best way to address the individual and minimize littering? Education.
Since littering often begins while people are children, it’s essential to educate and instruct young people on the detrimental impact litter can have on their environment. Starting early could include litter education in schools, which proves to have better results when embedded in everyday school instruction rather than as a separate program. With early litter education, children can develop a new attitude toward littering, which could impact their behaviour for years to come and help decrease littering in the future. Showing the direct effects of littering, like polluted rivers or trails of trash, could also have an impact on children and lead to less litter.
People could also form or participate in educational programs that not only inform the community, but conduct cleanups as well. In Quebec, Les Valoristes help cut down on waste by collecting empty cans and bottles. Lead or join a cleanup through the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, which has already conducted 2,723 volunteer-led cleanups in 2019 alone, or take action with Nova Scotia’s Clean Foundation.
Look at Ontario, Canada’s most heavily populated province. Ontario generates almost a tonne of waste every year per person. Nearly 5 million tonnes of residential waste and 6.9 million tonnes of industrial, commercial and institutional waste make up Ontario’s waste stream. The province says it plans to coordinate with municipalities, schools, businesses and other organizations that have been combatting litter to announce a day of action when it comes to litter in the province. Additionally, Ontario plans to develop future conservation leaders, put students in contact with environmental organizations making a difference and continue searching for new ways to boost access to disposal in their communities. Canada has numerous resources to educate and get involved, which is ultimately one of the vital steps to reduce litter.
Contact PlayPower Canada for Commercial Trash Cans and Decrease Litter Today
For a cleaner, healthier environment and a pristine park, don’t wait to combat litter — put in more commercial trash receptacles. At PlayPower Canada, we understand how integral a park can be to your community. That’s why we offer plenty of high-quality site furnishings for any of your park amenity needs through companies such as Little Tikes Commercial, Miracle Recreation and Wabash Valley. From picnic tables and benches to signs and fencing, you can find exactly what you’re looking for in different sizes, styles, colours and price points that work best for you. Clean up your parks with low-maintenance litter receptacles that will last through any of Canada’s harshest conditions, and contact PlayPower Canada today for more information on our site furnishing options.