A stolen laptop, drug paraphernalia, a flare gun, hundreds of masks, and thousands of cigarette butts are just some of the discarded items David Boudinot has found on his morning walks since June.
Acquisitions and electronic resources librarian at the University of Victoria, Boudinot has been researching plastic pollution – specifically nurdles – for years. He’s always been passionate about environmental protection. But, what really got him started as the ‘Fernwood litter picker’ was the tedium of working from home throughout the pandemic.
“I started getting up super early and going for walks in the neighbourhood and I was noticing a lot of trash,” Boudinot said. So, he got himself a bucket, gloves and an ergonomic litter picker from a local medical supply store – what they advertised as a “helping hand handi-grip pro reacher” – and began his two hour morning litter picking routine.
It turns out there are all kinds of interesting things hiding in litter heaps on the streets.
One time, Boudinot found a laptop and charging cord sticking out of a garbage bin. Upon returning home and powering it up, he discovered a phone number on the login screen, which led him to discover that the laptop had been stolen from a UVic student who depended on it for online learning.
“That was her crucial tool to accessing her classes,” Boudinot said, who was able to return the laptop to her.
Another time, he found a knife and when he called the police to come to collect it, they asked him to bring it by their headquarters.
“They told me to just drop it in the dropbox in the lobby,” Boudinot said, laughing as he recalled that it wouldn’t fit and he had to wait for an officer to come collect it off him. “They told me to have my hands visible since I was technically in possession of a weapon.”
Less than a week ago, Boudinot came across a couple of old black and white portraits in a box with teacups and ceramic soup spoons. After posting them to social media he was able to reunite them with the family of the woman in the photographs.
What he finds the most of are cigarette butts, though. Disposable drink cups, single-use plastics and masks also top Boudinot’s most-found list.
When he finds drug paraphernalia he reports it to the city and disposes of it in a sharps container. When he finds bottles and cans he leaves them on the curb so someone can collect them.
For the majority of his litter picking time, Boudinot wasn’t keeping track of how much he collected. But, on Dec. 13 he started and in the less than a month since then and Jan. 5 he has amassed 360 litres of waste.
“By doing something, it feels a lot better than complaining about it. You can feel the sense of accomplishment.”
Boudinot emphasized that while he may be the Fernwood litter picker, he is far from the only one. People all over the world have committed themselves to cleaning up trash.
“If we take care of the earth, the earth will take care of us.”
This morning I removed 45 L of trash from the streets of #Fernwood #VictoriaBC 🇨🇦. I now extend a challenge to you to pick up some litter on your street if you are able. Post a photo in the comments! #TogetherWeMakeADifference pic.twitter.com/TjqViAGWuW— David Boudinot (@librarialstudy) December 29, 2020
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