10 Questions With February’s #LocalHero – Bruce Timms!

1) Tell us a bit about yourself!

My name is Bruce Timms. My partner, Coral, and I live in St.Catharines, near the Welland Canal, on the St.Lawrence Seaway. I am a veteran municipal politician, Regional Councillor for St.Catharines on Niagara Regional Council from 1991-2018,  and a retired Professional Engineer. I have a daughter who is in South Korea teaching English.

2) What inspired you to start getting involved with your Community/start cleaning your shoreline?

During a visit to the Island of Jeju in South Korea, my daughter told me the story of “The Grandmothers”, war widows who gather a couple times a week to pick up litter in the streets and along the shoreline. I was about to retire and it came to me that I could do that. “Litter in the streets becomes plastic in the ocean” was a phrase that stuck with me from some media coverage of too much plastic in the ocean.  I am well aware of the pipe network that carries litter from the street gutters to the lakes and Rivers of Niagara and eventually to the Atlantic Ocean.  

plastics in road drainage

3) What specific action/steps do you take to help the environment ? 

We pickup litter and doggy bags in the neighbourhood every day while walking our dog.

The litter is most often plastic coffee cup lids, plastic water bottles, candy treat wrappers, cigarette package wrappers, and mysterious ziplock sandwich bags. 

We also keep an eye on the city litter barrels. We petitioned the city to return a litter barrel to a street corner after it disappeared and had it replaced with the help of local city councillors. 

I set up the Litter Pickers of St.Catharines Facebook page to share what I’m doing. I’ll provide a good litter picker stick to volunteers – E-Z Reachers are what I use. 


4) Why is having clean shorelines important?

Litter attracts litter, so a littered shoreline encourages more litter, especially on public beaches here in Niagara, as much as it does on Jeju , South Korea. Plastic litter can attract broken glass litter which can cut little feet.. If people think no one cares, why would they? Ducks, swans and seagulls will ingest small plastic bits and eventually die from plastic accumulating in their stomachs. 


5) What challenges or obstacles do you face when pursuing your goals?

City staff will often decide to reduce the number of litter barrels around the city, for winter , or just to save some cost, so dog walkers have farther to go and casual litterers will not carry it very far. Some of us Litter Pickers like to unload at a barrel and carry on filling our bags until we get home, or the next litter barrel.

litter barrel on side walk

6)How do you keep yourself motivated? 

Taking our dog for a walk every day, but on five different routes. 


7) Who inspires you in terms of activism and making a difference?

Neighbourhood people thank us often. Rotary International District 7090 is our service club , and they run a Great Lakes Watershed Cleanup day on Earth day every year. “The Grandmothers” of Jeju, South Korea.


8) What has been your favourite experience on this journey so far?

A car pulled over to thank us and said they found the same picker stick and had started doing litter picking in their area after seeing us so often! 


9) What was something that surprised you during your journey?

The number of plastic sandwich bags left on the street. On the positive side, the number of wild flowers and tree blossoms we never noticed before.


10) Do you have any recommendations for people wanting to make a difference in their community?

Combine litter picking with something you do ordinarily, like walking to the coffee shop or corner store, watching your kid’s soccer game, or walking the dog. I have been told it is not really a power walk or a cardio walk but there is fresh air and a sense of being helpful. 


Litter in the street is plastic in the ocean, 

Litter attracts litter, 

and neighbourhood pride and curb appeal;  all good reasons to join Litter Pickers St.Catharines.

Interested in joining Bruce? He welcomes you to join him by visiting his Facebook page for Litter Pickers of St Catharines, or The Rotary Club of St Catharines Lakeshore (Facebook).

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