March 27, 2006

Fast food containers dominate PEI litter; leading brands named in 2005 survey report

Take-out food containers, particularly beverage cups, remain the leading type of litter strewn along Prince Edward Island roadways. The province's latest Roadside Litter Survey Report went a step further in 2005 by "branding" the tossed items, i.e. naming the company that distributed the product. Tim Hortons outlets were the leading source of littered cups, with McDonald's accounting for the largest proportion of paper packaging litter.

In releasing the annual survey, Environment, Energy and Forestry Minister Jamie Ballem said litter continues to be a problem with an average of more than 150 items - not including cigarette butts - collected per survey site. Each site consisted of a 100-metre stretch of roadway, including ditches on both sides of the road.

"It's hard to believe but that translates into 1,500 pieces of litter in just one kilometre of roadway or 1.5 pieces of litter for every metre," Ballem said. Because much of this waste is picked up through programs such as Adopt-A-Highway, he said, "we may not realize the extent of the litter problem. However, for a province that has the reputation of being clean and green, the picture painted by the Roadside Litter Survey is clearly a concern."

In addition to categorizing the litter by product type, the 2005 litter survey was "branded:" not only did it list products such as cups, it named the company that distributed the product. This gave more detailed information on the nature of roadside litter in the province.

As a result, Ballem said companies whose products were commonly found in PEI ditches will receive a copy of the 2005 survey report, and will be invited to take steps to help prevent littering, e.g. by encouraging their customers to dispose of packaging properly. Highlights of the survey results follow.

*Take-out food containers made up 30% of the litter, with cups the most common item: an average of 14 cups were picked up per survey site. Cups accounted for 9% of total roadside litter, whiel cup lids represented another 8%. By brand, Tim Hortons cups accounted for 45% of littered cups.

*Paper packaging for food - including sandwich and burger wrappers, lunch bags and french fry cartons - constituted 4% of roadside litter. Of this quantity, McDonald's packaging accounted for 35% of the paper packaging collected.

*About 12 items per site, or 8% of total litter consisted of confectionary items - chip bags, gum packaging, and bar and other candy wrappers.

*Beverage containers, including cans, plastic and glass bottles and cartons, accounted for another 8% of roadside litter. Glass bottles were the most common beverage container, and beer bottles accounted for more than half of the glass bottles collected.

*Cigarette packs consisted of 7% of roadside litter, or about 11 items per site. Two brands, Players and Number 7, made up almost two-thirds (65%) of the discarded cigarette packages.

The survey included data on cigarette butts at three sites with results showing 529, 911, and 372 butts collected. Cigarette butts accounted for 79% of roadside litter at these three sites.

The annual roadside litter survey, a joint effort of PEI government departments and agencies, industry sectors and other interested groups, is conducted by the Southeast Environmental Association as part of the province's litter awareness campaign.

Littering is not only unacceptable, it is illegal: PEI has seven acts under which littering charges can be laid, including throwing garbage from a vehicle, not properly securing a load, littering while fishing, littering on the Confederation Trail, and leaving litter on trespassed property. Penalties include fines, a loss of points on a driver's licence and a one-year suspension of a fishing licence. Many municipalities have anti-littering bylaws in place as well.

The Roadside Litter Survey Report - 2005 may be viewed on-line at www.gov.pe.ca/litter.

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