Our streets range from trashy to spotless, citywide audit finds

A recent city-wide litter audit found that some streets in this area are getting dirtier, while others are close to spotless.

The corner of Booth and Eastern Aves. ranked 11 out of 247 sites, barely missing the top-10 list of the dirtiest intersections in Toronto. MGM Management, the company conducting the audit, found 70 pieces of large litter, such as candy wrappers, cigarette packages and fast-food containers, in one day at this intersection.

This site is also dirtier than it was in 2002, when the city conducted its first litter audit. Two years ago, only 18 pieces of litter were found at this intersection.

Another dirty intersection is Queen St. and Wineva Ave. where 30 pieces of large litter were detected, which is above the city average of 21 items per site.

To put this in perspective, the dirtiest intersection in the city, according to the 2004 audit, is on Augusta Ave. near Queen St., where 134 items of litter were picked up.

Where is the cleanest intersection? That honour goes to Kilchurn Castle Dr. near Huntingwood Dr. in Scarborough, which had only one piece of large litter.

The Beaches is also home to some fairly clean sites. The intersection of Glen Stewart Ave. near Main St. had only four pieces of large litter. And Orchard Park Blvd. and Queen St. had just five large items of trash.

The study also examined small litter at 47 sites. In all, nearly 50,000 pieces of small litter were found. Local sites didn’t play a factor here.

In this case, the dirtiest intersection was Spadina Ave. and Queen St., where auditors found a whopping 4,867 pieces of small litter, including over 4,000 pieces of chewing gum and more than 100 cigarette butts.

The good news is that litter in the city is down compared to 2002. According to a staff report, large litter is down 16 percent this year, compared with two years ago. The city’s goal is to see a 50 percent reduction between 2002-2007.

There are a number of reasons why litter is becoming less of a problem, said Geoff Rathbone, director of solid waste management planning and policy.

The city has more litter pickers, and the equipment they use is more efficient at picking up discarded trash than it was before, he said.

And the city has started a more aggressive advertising campaign telling people not to trash Toronto. Last April, the mayor introduced the 20-minute makeover, which encouraged people to take a few minutes out of their day to clean up areas around their workplaces. The next day there were dozens of community clean-up events.

Also, the fines for littering went up to $305. However, it’s not that easy to enforce.

"It’s somewhat tricky, as the person has to be caught in the act," said Rathbone. "Most of the bylaw enforcement is focussing on illegal dumping, which is a gross form of litter. We can identify those individuals through the garbage (they dump), but when someone drops a candy bar wrapper, it’s harder to identify the person littering."

The city also hired about 20 more bylaw enforcement officers, who mainly focus on illegal dumping in areas, such as parks and ravines.

Although the same 247 sites were anaylzed in both 2002 and 2004, Rathbone said the city did not attempt to clean up the sites beforehand to influence the results.

"Some sites are dirtier than two years ago and some are cleaner."

The city plans to do the audit every year and add random sites that are not part of the survey now. While at least four sites were selected for each of the city’s 44 wards, more sites were chosen in downtown Toronto. While cleaning up the entire city is a priority, there is more of a focus downtown.

"We do see a linkage between pedestrian traffic and litter so we tend to concentrate our efforts where there are more pedestrians and litter."