‘People Against Littering’ wants to clean up Brampton’s problem with public trash
People Against Littering/Facebook

‘People Against Littering’ wants to clean up Brampton’s problem with public trash

Brampton as a litter-free city might be hard to picture, with its debris-lined roadsides and ongoing challenges to keep public spaces clean. People Against Littering, a group dedicated to the stewardship of its rapidly growing municipality, wants to beautify Brampton…one piece of trash at a time.

On March 16, the group celebrated Global Recycling Day by organizing a cleanup at Duggan Park near downtown and held a talk to share how to properly recycle in the Region of Peel. It also discussed how PAL is trying to make its city the first in Canada to become litter-free. 

The group is known for trekking into thick forestry across Brampton to collect litter and remove trash in natural spaces such as the Etobicoke Creek watershed. 

“It's great to clean it up and realize we're now opening it up to wildlife to thrive in and flourish in, and that's a big part of our motivation for doing it, besides the fact that the litter is just ugly,” Bill Godfrey, founder of PAL, said. “It contaminates our soil, it pollutes our waterways, it demoralizes our citizens. I'm just disappointed that more people don't take it seriously.” He believes it is possible to have a city without litter if everyone commits to picking up a few pieces each day. 

Five people who pick up 10,000 items of trash creates “this small little tiny group of lone heroes”. The group’s goal, he said, is “to establish a new social norm…where it's almost as shameful to walk past a piece of litter as it is to litter in the first place.”

People Against Littering has organized group cleanups in Brampton for years.

(Top: Hafsa Ahmed/The Pointer; Bottom: People Against Littering)


“Our mission is to inspire thousands of people who stand up united and say, ‘enough is enough, we'll pick up litter, eradicate it from our neighborhoods.’ It would only take about five minutes a week if everybody did it.” He wants to make Brampton the “very first litter free city in Canada,” and believes once people begin the habit of picking trash up, it will change the normalization of litter.

Godfrey began doing it in 2020, shortly after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. When he was going for walks along Etobicoke Creek, he noticed how much litter was in the area and started to collect it. He soon became “addicted” to going out and cleaning up different areas of the park, creek and woodland where he walked. 

For Godfrey, it is about pride in the place he lives, a feeling many others across the city share.



A PAL member collecting large amounts of trash along one of Brampton’s many wooded trails, which have become polluted by garbage.



He soon began getting noticed by passersby and decided to get others involved by starting a Facebook group. 

While the group is focused on cleaning up Brampton, he says litter is an “epidemic”, a problem everywhere. 

“People seem to have lost that sense of pride in the area they live in, they just allowed [litter] to accumulate and accumulate,” he said, pointing out that a lot of places the group cleans up have suffered from chronic littering for years, even decades. They once found a 1965 license plate. 


Founder Bill Godfrey first preferred to go at litter picking alone but eventually residents asked about doing group cleanups as PAL began to flourish.

(Hafsa Ahmed/The Pointer)


“Cleaning up, it feels so good to get that stuff out of the creek.” Godfrey said the group pulls out everything from rusted bikes to metal appliances, and that while it is “very sad” to see how much trash is removed from the environment, it is also very rewarding.

“The volunteers are amazing people. I've never met better people in my life.” 

Wilma Colekessian, a PAL volunteer, has been picking up litter for 28 years, she began when she was 49, after receiving an osteoporosis diagnosis at the time. She wanted an alternative way to address her health and while on her walks she noticed litter in the parks, instinctively deciding that collecting it would allay the disappointment the site of trash caused when she was out. 

“Everyday when I walked in my neighborhood parks I realized there was litter and I started picking [it] up and I picked up more and more, and that's how it started…I just could not walk by anymore,” she said. “It was a park guy who gave me a picker when he saw me picking, and that's when I started picking even more.”

She met Godfrey three years ago when she noticed residents in the bushes of the park she was walking through. “I said to my friend, ‘What are these people doing in the bushes, are there berries or mushrooms in there?’ and then I heard Bill's voice, ‘We are picking litter!’”. She was told to look into PAL on Facebook and after that she decided to team up with the grassroots movement.

“I have never looked back because it's so much more fun to pick litter in a group. I have met some really amazing people since. It's such a nice group of people, kind people and it's lovely to be part of that.”


Wilma Colekessian (centre) has been picking up litter for 28 years.

(Hafsa Ahmed/The Pointer)


“The big hope is just that more people get involved and then litter will not be accepted anymore and Brampton will become a cleaner city,” she said. “But it is a worldwide problem and I hope…everybody in the world will start realizing that littering is not acceptable anymore and we have to do something for our poor planet.”


Brampton has faced challenges with widespread littering for years.



Doug Grainger is another volunteer with PAL who often helps clean parks, forests and creeks, regularly pulling out large pieces of waste that have been abandoned for years. 

“A lot of the work we do, you probably wouldn’t even see us cuz we’re in the bush, in the areas that are not really that accessible and people won’t really wanna clean,” Grainger said. “It’s a good group and we have a lot of fun…we just want to make it clean.” They recently pulled out around 600 pounds of clothing and garbage from a two-year-old abandoned encampment. 


Doug Grainger stands in front of Duggan Park’s forest area where the PAL volunteers dove in to get at the hard-to-reach litter that is often not collected.

(Hafsa Ahmed/The Pointer) 


Godfrey said litter on the ground is like “the canary in the coal mine.”

“It's an indication that there's something wrong with society.”

“What I’d like to see is us become a powerful grassroots movement,” he said. “I’d like to think of it actually as a revolution of kindness and compassion.” While there are bad actors who choose to litter, he says there are also issues with trash cans overflowing, often falling over, which contributes to a lot of the litter and an attitude of apathy, which leads to people simply ignoring the trash as it accumulates and becomes normalized.


People Against Littering volunteers pose behind garbage they collected from an abandoned homeless encampment near Sandalwood Parkway.

(Bill Godfrey/Facebook)


The establishment of “litter-free zones,” where residents adopt an area or park and take control over its beautification, is a plan Godfrey is spreading across the city. Residents are encouraged to report bad actors, not to get people in trouble, he said, but to help track the source of litter in an area. Getting neighbours involved is crucial, to take ownership of the spaces in which they live, work and play.

PAL has completed over 200 cleanups and picked up more than 3,000,000 pieces of litter. 


Cleanups are registered with the City which then picks up after the trash is collected and left at the appropriate location.

(Hafsa Ahmed/The Pointer)


“People have to understand litter is destroying, it's degrading, it's desecrating our planet…and we can solve this problem,” Godfrey said. “We have proven that people power can do something amazing. 

“People have been conditioned to believe that politicians and governments will do these things for them, and that's disaster…”. If the government is expected to look after your own neighbourhood, “you'll take the pride away from them.” 

He enjoys rolling up his sleeves.

“We do not just do the easy areas,” he said. “We get back into the bushes that nobody touches, we get layers in the dirt, we're on our knees and we're digging it up.”


PAL does not rely on City Hall or local politicians to ensure litter is cleaned up.

(Hafsa Ahmed/The Pointer)


On April 14, the organization hosted a cleanup with more than 350 students at Teramoto Park. Godfrey said he is looking for more ways to involve residents and youth, and to get leaders in the community to join the movement.

He wants people to come to Brampton and instead of commenting on how much litter there is, offer praise for how nice the city looks. 

“Can you imagine how happy [Brampton residents] would be if they walk around and they look around and they see a clean city and they know it was them that did it.”  


Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @_hafsaahmed

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