Litter frustration prompts ‘Chilliwack Clean-up’ group

Chilliwack Clean-Up is a grassroots community group that holds weekly clean-ups to remove litter from Chilliwack's streets and parks.

David Elderkin is a primary organizer for Chilliwack Clean-Up

David Elderkin is a primary organizer for Chilliwack Clean-Up

Have you noticed litter lining the streets? Or, in a growing number of areas, the lack of it?

A new grassroots group of environmental advocates has started up online to help combat the local litter bugs.

David Elderkin and Suzie Lyck , among others, were discussing the influx of garbage on the streets of our community.

“It was getting worse and worse,” Elderkin told The Progress. “I was getting tired of talking about it.”

So, they stopped talking and started cleaning.

Elderkin and Lyck started a public Facebook group ‘Chilliwack Clean Up’ and began promoting it wherever he could.

It was just the two of them on their first official clean-up in January, when they spent three hours picking up trash along Vedder Road in the rain.

Today, the group has 450 members.

Through posts in the group, Elderkin and other members organize clean-ups each week, gradually moving from one area of Chilliwack to the next. The primary clean-ups run on weekends, but some are held sporadically during the week as well.

Through fundraising and donations, as well as guidance from City staff, they’ve sourced an array of tools and equipment to help them get the job done safely.

Donning high-visibility safety vests and gloves, the group gathers to stroll the streets with bags, buckets, buggies and reachers in tow.

According to Elderkin, the first rule of Chilliwack Clean Up is to talk about Chilliwack Clean Up.

“We’ve got to spread the word. The more we talk about it, the more the conversation grows,” he said.

For those who can’t make it to a group clean-up, Elderkin encourages them to grab a friend and do a bit of collection in their own neighbourhood when they have some free time.

“I’m not the boss. I’m just trying to lead by example,” he said simply.

All he asks is that people are safe and respectful about it, and that they take a photo of their work and post it to the group.

“People don’t believe what you say, they believe what they see,” he explained. “By posting evidence of our action, it encourages others to come out and clean up, one street at a time.”

Once you start noticing the garbage, it quickly becomes hard to ignore. And once you get out and actually start to walk among it, you realize just how much there really is.

While groups like the Chilliwack Vedder River Clean-Up Society and Fraser River Clean-up continue to fight illegal dumping along the waterways, the efforts of this new group help tackle the trash along the city streets.

Picking up along Vedder, Yale and downtown Chilliwack thus far, the most common items they’ve picked up are cigarette butts and coffee cups. The trash tends to congregate where traffic stops, at lights or parking lots, or in gathering spots near schools and parks.

Sawed off handcuffs, an arrow, used condoms and needles are among the most unpleasant of items they’ve cleared from the streets.

The primary hurdle they’re facing is the disposal. With the volume they have now, members are able to adequately dispose the trash in the commercial dumpsters of local businesses that support the group.

Looking forward, they may need to request disposal tags or landfill passes from the City if they become inundated.

Overall, it’s about taking pride in your community, and accepting responsibility to protect your environment.

“We wouldn’t be out there if it weren’t a problem. And it’s an easily preventable one.”

When it comes to littering, just don’t do it.

It’s a global problem with local solutions, and Elderkin hopes to see a similar framework adopted by other communities.

Those interested in learning more or joining the group can find them on Facebook.