Along with the plants growing in a small community garden at Adelaide Avenue and Tecumseh Street, there is a seemingly perennial collection of garbage.
The garden is courtesy of local resident Emil Glassbourg. The litter mostly comes from customers of nearby McDonald’s and Tim Hortons restaurants.
Glassbourg wants his neighbourhood to know who was responsible for what in the garden. So he mounted a sign blaming the local franchises of the fast food restaurants for the garbage and pointing out they are not helping to clean it up.
“I think the community needs to know this is the responsibility of the corporations,” he said, emphatic that the fault lays with the corporate owners of the restaurants, and not people who are actually throwing the packaging in the three above-ground planters.
“When I approached them to contribute to clean up their garbage, they didn't want to contribute, and I think they are being negligent. They are the ones producing this garbage.”
Glassbourg said he went to three fast food outlets, two neighbouring locations of Tim Hortons on King Street West and Queen Street West, and an outpost of McDonald’s, also on King.
He said he offered a few ways for them to help with the cleanup. One was to pay for $10 a week for regular litter removal, another was pay local seniors he knows to help out. All the restaurants declined.
“That type of attitude merited signs that told the community why these gardens, which generally are looking nice, always had garbage in them,” he said.
Tim Hortons spokesperson Alexandra Cygal said each restaurant takes specific steps to make sure this doesn’t happen, such as putting messages that read ‘Put Waste In Its Place’ on its coffee cups and other packaging. Local restaurants also take part in Let's Clean Toronto Together, a program to clean areas of the city.
“But even with all these things in place, we rely on our guests to do the right thing and put garbage in its place instead of on the streets,” said the Tim Hortons spokesperson.
The McDonald’s franchise owner agreed that the restaurant and Glassbourg did not come to an agreement on cleaning the garden, but pointed out that staff clean the area around the location regularly.
None of that satisfied Glassbourg, who continues to clean the garden on his own.
“It's difficult to determine any difference my signs make. Discarded fast food packaging continues to be deposited in the gardens,” he said.
“I think I'll collect their cups over a few months to fill up a few garbage bags and then dump them on the floor of their office reception area. We'll see how much they like receiving their own trash.”