Netting our Garbage in St. John’s

Cowritten by Giovanni Paquin

<p>Photo by Andrew Matheson</p>

ST. JOHN’S – One of our favourite discoveries during the 2009 API Conference in St. John’s, Newfoundland was, of all things, their garbage. We were “lucky” enough to be in the city for garbage day. Street after street was lined with garbage bags covered in green and blue polyester nets. We assumed that this was a quirky Newfoundland tradition that highlighted the importance of the fishing industry to St. John’s economy – they’ve got so many nets they’re even using them to cover their garbage! Ah the ignorance of a visiting tourist.

It should have come as no surprise that garbage issues are just as controversial in St. John’s as they are in most other cities. In response to lobbying efforts by members of the City’s Clean and Beautiful Program and following a 2006 pilot project, City Council amended the St. John’s Covering of Garbage Placed for Collection By-Law. The amendment, which came into effect in July 2007, requires all residents of St. John’s to take the necessary measures to prevent their garbage bags from being ripped open by birds (namely gulls we assume based on the thousands of them we saw flying around).

First and foremost, residents can only place garbage outside their homes between 6:00am and 8:00am of garbage day – so no taking out the trash the night before. Secondly, residents have three choices for what to do with their bags: place their bags in watertight garbage containers; cover their garbage with blankets “deemed acceptable by the inspector”; or drape nylon or polyester nets over the bags. It seems that because of the hilly terrain, most residents (at least those living in the heart of the city) opted for the nets over the containers – which could easily roll down the steep streets.

Photo by Andrew Matheson

The somewhat controversial bylaw amendment was met with mixed reviews by residents, many of whom vented their displeasure with punny op-eds and articles: “More net, less gross”; “Garbage bylaw for the birds”; “New garbage bylaw really stinks”.

While one can question the practicality of mesh nets keeping hungry gulls away from garbage, aesthetically, net-lined streets are a comparatively charming alternative to the bulky plastic garbage bins which line the sidewalks in most other cities.

photos by Andrew Matheson

One comment

  1. Haha, great piece. When I first moved there I had to learn the hard way to cover my garbage. The gulls/crows are ferocious. The nets however, are pretty ingenious.

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