Owners take heat for litterbug customers

Dennis Hanagan—

Torontonians need to show more pride in their city and stop dropping their litter wherever they stand, says Mark Garner, executive director of the Downtown Yonge BIA.

Garner was responding to an October city council decision to amend Toronto’s municipal code to require bars, night clubs “and other establishments” to clean up litter on their properties, at their own expense.

That means getting rid of unsightly cigarette butts, cigar tips, electronic cigarettes “and any refuse disposal generated by their patrons at all times.” The city is also making it mandatory for owners to make cigarette disposal receptacles available.

Garner said that at one time Toronto was known as the cleanest city in North America.

“People from New York would come up to Toronto … and they would marvel at how clean, how safe, how friendly this (city) was.”

He said Toronto needs to get back to the days when it was that iconic, clean city. “It behooves us all, as citizens of Toronto, to make sure we keep it clean.”

He said it’s helpful to have infrastructure in place where butts can be disposed of. A recent city poster campaign tells smokers to put their snuffed butts into sidewalk receptacle containers. They have special butt disposal openings.

Garner said his BIA has its own Clean Streets Team which is out every day cleaning up debris from local streets, and they see people who drop their litter “and don’t care.”

Garner said it shouldn’t be a broad-brush assumption that it’s the establishment owners and their patrons that are the ones making the city dirty. “Everybody has to take a more proactive engagement on it,” he said.

He said samplers—people who hand out free product samples—also lead to more litter when the takers, who’ve finished eating or drinking the product, toss the wrapping or container on the ground “or they wind up sitting on a businesses ledge” and the shop owner is left to clean it up.

A report from Municipal Licensing and Standards noted cigarette butts and chewing gum litter pose specific problems, requiring costly and time-consuming removal methods.

Cigarette filters, said the report, contain non-biodegradable cellulose acetate and can take up to 12 years to break down. Washed down storm grates they get into the water system damaging water supplies and pose a health hazard to animals and marine life that ingest them, thinking they’re food.

Littering carries a set fine of $305 plus a $60 victim surcharge.