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Municipal Politics

Please Advise! Why Are Vancouverites Such Trash Goblins?

Dr. Steve seeks the silver lining of beached BBQs.

Steve Burgess 30 Jun

Steve Burgess writes about politics and culture for The Tyee. Read his previous articles.

[Editor’s note: Steve Burgess is an accredited spin doctor with a PhD in Centrifugal Rhetoric from the University of SASE, situated on the lovely campus of PO Box 7650, Cayman Islands. In this space he dispenses PR advice to politicians, the rich and famous, the troubled and well-heeled, the wealthy and gullible.]

Dear Dr. Steve,

The delayed return of warm weather to the area led to a rush of locals to Vancouver beaches, and that resulted in piles of trash. Last weekend, Kits Beach was left looking like Woodstock the day after. Someone even abandoned a full-sized grill near the beach. What can be done about this behaviour?



Dear Trashed,

Difficult though it can be sometimes, Dr. Steve likes to take a positive view of life. Thus he has attempted to view this story through a rose-tinted lens.

These have been tough times for the economy. Inflation is soaring, stocks spiralling. There is talk of recession. Therefore Dr. Steve looks for any hopeful signs, little indicators of improvement. At Kits Beach, we have one. You must be doing pretty well to take a honking big barbecue grill, an item that is merely a wish for many a budget-conscious Canadian Tire shopper, haul it to the beach, flip a few burgers, and just leave it there. Economically, this seems like a good sign. Conspicuous consumption, egregious waste — these are markers of consumer confidence. The arrows are pointed upward. Perhaps soon we will see single-use Porsches dumped into trash cans at English Bay. Instead of simply leaving paper plates and cups scattered around the sand, might we start to see full dinette sets, fine china and glass goblets, maybe even the odd sous vide machine? Will our beaches be dotted with discarded serving staff, loitering forlornly, unsure of where to go?

Damn it, only a couple of paragraphs in and Dr. Steve's happy pills are already wearing off. Public beaches left like waterfront dumpsters by thoughtless boors — who are these people? And where are the wolves that raised them?

But Dr. Steve should not insult the noble wolf that way. Wolf adoptees founded Rome. And probably gave themselves a nice tongue bath afterwards. Not these clowns. Do they enjoy landfills? If so, why not party at the dump? It's got the ambience they clearly crave.

Photos of the beach show plenty of empty beer cases on the sand — like bear scat on a forest trail, a sure sign that a party animal has passed through. The reflex reaction is to say that the new rules allowing drinking in Vancouver public parks has backfired, but that's probably misguided. The current rules don't allow for boozing on the sand anyway. Tightening the guidelines would have as much effect as putting up signs forbidding raccoons from eating leftover pizza.

Like many of you, Dr. Steve gets very annoyed at this stuff. Not just beach trash, either. He often finds his blood pressure edging up after a visit to the recycling bins. Pop quiz: if the bin says “Paper,” does that mean paper products only? Or does it mean take a selection of chicken bones, half-full Frappuccino cups, and empty Twizzlers packages, dump it into a paper bag, call it paper, and throw that in lock, stock and McDonald's box? Answer carefully or Dr. Steve will thrash you with an egg carton full of solidified bacon fat.

Having a bunch of ugly trash left on the English Bay beach is particularly painful this week. Plans have finally been revealed to dismantle the English Bay Barge, the most storied piece of flotsam ever to wash up on a Vancouver shore. This is going to be painful to watch. Imagine if, instead of cancelling Barney & Friends, they just dismembered Barney limb from limb — every week another piece of Barney cut off while the children screamed. Well, that's what is about to happen to our beloved barge. It will be a long, cruel public execution, a warning to any other wayward barge not to even think of beaching here.

The Kits Beach Grill will never rival the English Bay Barge for public affection. No one will ever post a sign reading “Grill Chilling Beach.” It's among the most photographed sites in the city. Couldn't we keep the barge? It's part of us now. We could make it a giant trash can for all the crap people leave. Better yet, a beachfront detention centre for the litterers themselves, locked into the barge overnight along with their garbage and a passel of hungry raccoons.

Dr. Steve predicts this could be a winning election platform. To the barricades! Take charge of the Barge! The future of Vancouver tourism is at stake.  [Tyee]

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