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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! :)

Edited by Newbie
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My comment is that all it takes is for number nine on your list to happen while a tourist walks by and think that we are full of litter.

My point is, I no longer take people's comments or interpretations as fact. And I don't think you should either.

There needs to be concrete data to support the theory that Montréal is dirty and full of litter. Because I actually think that Montréal is clean. Especially downtown.

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I could see a garbage can, close to a tree on the picture above on the left side. People are so lazy.


If i compare Montreal to Buenos Aires , Montreal is way more clean than this city.


What the city should do a the minimum, is to install a garbage can at every bus stop. Because many times the bus shelter get filled up with a mountain of litter.


Madrid is pretty clean at every corners on a given intersection there is a garbage can.

Just a look a this picture of calle de Alcala close to entrance of the Retiro Park we could see 5 garbage cans close to each others. Every light post got one. Just using the arrow to move forward and you could check that yourself.



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Thanks for your comments guys.


@peekay, in my case, I realized this by myself since my first year living here. The comments from visitors just made me remember it after I had gotten used to it. My plan is to gather data though, so I'll try to do that as well.


@denpanosekai I'm adding cigarette butts to the list, since it is often dangerous to throw them into a garbage can which explains why many people don't do it.


@Rusty Agree, Rome is worse.


@andre md I've heard a couple of reasons for the lack of garbage cans in Montreal. One is money; collection takes longer and is more expensive. The second one is the fear that they be used for dangerous purposes (this is why there are no cans downstairs in the metro).


The picture of the park is indeed puzzling, but I believe many people see green areas as somehow less deserving of cleanliness than concrete. I've even seen people carefully push litter into the small green space of a sidewalk tree. The new nice controversial sidewalk greenery in the Plateau is also a victim. Although they are a magnet for flying litter as well.


@Malcolmeyeal My experience tells me that SF is a lot cleaner than Montreal. However, I think what happens in many US cities is that there a big difference in cleanliness efforts between richer/more touristic areas, and poorer areas. This a controversial approach that probably leads to a better image and more investment from outside.


Thanks again for your comments. Proposed solutions are coming :). Feel free to post yours.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Hi everyone,


This is a note to the people who claim Montreal is clean.


I just cleaned up one block in the Plateau by myself. This is not representative of the whole neighbourhood, but its neither the cleanest nor the dirtiest street in it. I spent about one hour picking up litter. I filled up two large garbage bags and could hardly carry all the weight by the end. See attached pictures.


Having done this in a third world country before, one garbage bag was normally enough for one residential block. Yes, you would find certain spots containing mountains of garbage bags, but this was the result of too little investment in garbage collection, not of people carelessly littering their own neighbourhood.


It is also very common in other cities for residents to clean up in front of their buildings. This is certainly a taboo in Canada, not sure why.






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