The Toronto Garbage Strike of My Dreams that Never Was

Note: this report was written for VICE back in July and was (sadly) never used. Meh, thems the breaks. Also note: summer is almost over. WTF? In 10 days it's September. DEEPRAYSANG!!!

Well, after 39 uneventful days, the garbage strike in Toronto is over; nobody got the plague, rats didn’t take over the city, and the piles didn’t start talking like they do in Fraggle Rock. In case you were unaware, the city organized public dumping sites where you could drop off your trash instead of letting it fester in the sun in front of your house. It was actually a pretty good idea; instead of hot plastic bags filled with diapers and apple cores melting into your porch, you can bring them to a fenced-off area of a city park and let the raccoons have at it (we all win). I thought it was a great idea, but apparently I was the minority. Every night on the news there would be a new group of concerned citizens weeping for our parks, bitching and moaning about it like they were experiencing hurricane Katrina, anguishing that ‘the real victims here are the children’. What? Really? Is the garbage introducing the neighborhood children to drugs? I don’t live near any of the dump sites, so I wanted to see first hand whether they as horrific as people were saying they were.


The Toronto dump sites will be so gross and brimming with so much hot garbage that I will inevitably vomit several times.

I went to three city dump sites and rated them on the following: what it smells like, how strong the smell is, size of the heap, whether or not I would live in the trash pile and/or eat from it. Also I took my friend Katie with me to help me rate the garbage; she grew up on a farm and her parents own a McDonalds, so she is a great judge of smelly shit.

This is a great park, so I was a little bummed out when I heard they were going to make it a dumping ground. Most of the cry babies on the news were from the Christie Pits area, so I was very excited to see how much of a shit-show we had here. Katie and I had to ride our bikes all the way to the north end of the park to find where the dump was; it was hidden pretty well and had little to no real impact on park life at all. Kids were still playing at the playground and there were two baseball games going on.

SMELL NOTES: The garbage here just smelled very damp. That could have been from the rain a day before, so I won’t count that. In general, the garbage smelled like when you go away for a couple of days and forget to empty your trash before you leave.
SMELL STRENGTH: We gave it about a 1.5 out of 5; you could smell it when you got up close, but not very well.
SIZE OF THE HEAP: It barely filled an outdoor hockey rink
LIVEABILITY: Hells yes I would live here; before they put the trash down they laid out tons of plastic to protect the floor, and all the rain made it into one huge slip-n-slide.
DINING: I don’t think I would scout for food here because there were too many flies.
VERDICT: Unimpressed. Chinatown, on its cleanest day, is worse.

I was living for the day we got to go to the Moss Park dump. I was expecting a ton of crazy stuff. Instead we got a very friendly volunteer named Brian who was more than happy to give us girls a tour of his trash heap.

SMELL NOTES: Peat moss and cedar chips. It smelled like my mom’s garden
SMELL STRENGTH: Oh my god, nothing. Even up close you couldn’t smell anything. The smell of cedar was a bit overwhelming at times, but how can you complain when the park that usually reeks of urine now smells like Muskoka. Brian told us that the garbage from the hostels and men’s shelters could smell pretty gross (read: poop-soaked pants) but I didn’t see any evidence of this, so I will just assume this was his way of flirting with me.
SIZE OF THE HEAP: It was pretty big. The piles were at least 8 feet high and took up half a football field. Very tidy and well organized.
LIVEABILITY: I would absolutely live here; it’s all gated off like a rich person’s house. Fancy. The grossest thing we found here was a dead bird, and that’s old hat to a cat owner.
DINING: Moss Park is located across from a Popeye’s and I found several boxes of leftover fried chicken in the trash…so yeah, I would definitely eat out of the garbage here.
VERDICT: I didn’t think it was possible, but the dump actually made Moss Park less scary.

Where else but the vast wasteland of shitty beach and highway underpasses would we find our third and final dump site. It was actually a super-smart idea to close off a dead-end street like Villiers and let people dump at will – I mean, nobody in their right mind hangs out underneath the DVP or around Cherry Beach. It’s creepy around there. Fuck, I could imagine Leatherface touring Villiers Street with his real estate agent and telling her “Marge, don’t bring me to these shitholes anymore, okay?”
SMELL NOTES: It smells like Lake Ontario. No matter how much steaming hot, turgid garbage you dump, the Lakeshore will always smell like dead fish
SMELL STRENGTH: Very strong. The garbage smell and the lake smell have come together and mated and given birth to a smell far worse than your nightmares.
SIZE OF THE HEAP: I’m pretty sure you can see the lakeshore dump from space. It takes up a full city block.
LIVEABILITY: Actually…yes. You get used to the smell eventually (how else would you explain so many people buying condos down on Lake Ontario) plus someone had put up a tent/lean-to that would make for a very comfortable hobo-house. One caveat: my scalp suffered from a significant amount of fly bites, so I would recommend shaving one’s head before moving in to prevent lice.
DINING: Bitch please! There was better food at this dump than there is at my apartment. Full bags of chocolate chip cookies, bottle of half-finished Pepsi, a whole watermelon. If it didn’t reek so hard of inside-out fish, I would have brought a date here for dinner.
VERDICT: I ripped open one bag for fun and found a perfectly good pair of jeans and a half-used box of condoms. If I had found a mattress, I would be giving my 30-days to my landlord as we speak.

God Toronto, what’s wrong with you? This could have been the garbage strike to end all garbage strikes: sewers backed up for miles, a thick cloud of rotting meat and produce fumes lingering overhead at all times, Road Warrior-style self-made gangs wandering the streets. Maybe I was asking too much; I just assumed (and I’m sure you did too) that the garbage strike would turn Toronto from a bland and inoffensive city into a poverty-filled dystopia nightmare. I didn’t even barf once. Shame on you, Toronto, shame on you.

All photos by the amazing Katie Hinks.


Alice said...

Great article Mayor! Living in the West, I watched the news here and was expecting to see Toronto looking like New York city circa 1983 (dingy-er and dirtier).

Puhleese - Winnipeg playgrounds look far worse on any random Tuesday.

Ever been to the landfill? I don't know about TO, but here we only have one for the entire city and it's a miny city of it's own - it has diaper hills and old appliance valleys amid fields of floating plastic bags. Hobo's paradise.

The Mayor said...

Oh yeah, we have dumps in Ontario that are public. There's one up north that my uncle goes to all the time and he calls it The Mall.

The Mighty J said...

We Torontonians are bunch of cry-babies, I didn't find anything as apocalypic as the idiots on TVs made it out to be. And I was perfectly fine to wait it out another 39 days only Mayor Miller just HAD TO go and fellate Mark Ferguson and force them back to work.