I've lived in Montreal almost 10 years, and I've come to the pretty clear conclusion that we have a huge litter problem in the city. I've decided to start a conversation and to try to do something about it, so I'm going to go ahead and gather some thoughts, and I invite anyone interested in the subject to pitch their ideas.
Step 1. Admit there is a problem.
It seems that this is one of the hardest steps for us to take.
Try taking a walk down a couple of residential streets in the Plateau for example, or up Du Parc or Cote Des Neiges. Have someone from another city visit you. A couple of people from Latin America have said to me something like "people here are disgusting" while looking at all the litter in the street. I've pointed out how offensive this is by the way (it's common in some Hispanic cultures, including my own, to say things like this), and I don't think the same way, but it does highlight our litter problem. A friend who lives in New York thinks that Montreal doesn't "need" to be this dirty.
Many arguments against the idea that Montreal is dirty are based on comparisons to other cities; "it's the same everywhere." Although I don't think this invalidates the point that Montreal streets are dirty, I'm also sure that it is not the same everywhere. You don't find this much litter in dense neighbourhoods of Chicago for example.
Other arguments are about Winter, but then again, just take a walk today. It hasn't snowed in months.
You may not notice the issue if you have lived here since childhood, but visitors do notice it, and people from outside of Canada are the most surprised.
Step 2. Identify the direct causes of the problem.
There are many causes of this problem. I'd like to identify the direct ones, even if they are not to be tackled directly. Let me explain what I mean; Instead of saying "there are not enough garbage cans" I will say "Many people don't wait to see a garbage can before they dispose of their garbage".
It is important to understand direct causes because it allows us to break paradigms and think of the problem from different perspectives.
Here is the list of direct causes I have noticed over the years (in no particular order):
1) Many pedestrians don't wait to see a garbage can before they dispose of their garbage.
2) Many drivers throw litter from their vehicles.
3) Many residents dispose their garbage outside without using proper garbage bags.
4) Many residents dispose their garbage outside during the wrong hours/days (see the next point).
5) Garbage bags are attacked by squirrels and other animals, as well as by people looking for cans to recycle.
6) Often garbage bins/cans overflow.
7) Garbage collection is often done without care, letting some of the litter fall off the bins and trucks.
8) Many people leave their litter behind in public parks and squares.
9) Sometimes wind blows garbage out of bins/cans.
10) Many smokers throw their cigarette butts on the ground.
I'm going to pause here for now, but I'd like this conversation to go on and produce ideas and solutions. Feel free to give me your thoughts!