Andy Sward, who’s run across Canada three summers in a row, has taken it upon himself to clean up the highways while he does his cross country treks. Pictured, Sward stands in the parking lot of the Clearwater Lodge during a stop in town last week. Photo by Jaime Polmateer

Cross Canada runner keeps it clean on the road

This summer marks third year of Million Bottle Pledge

When avid runner Andy Sward ran across Canada for the first time in 2013 to bring awareness to the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle initiative, he found many of the people that used the Trans Canada Highway weren’t as interested in keeping the world clean as he was.

He said one of the things that bothered him right off the bat was the amount of garbage on the side of the road, so he thought he’d do something about it that tied in with his recycling goals, and began picking up trash along the way.

“At first I was picking up bottles and cans and taking them to the next town and just putting them in a recycling bin,” he said during a stop in Clearwater last weekend.

“Because I had a late start, when I picked up again the next year, I realized I kind of like doing this, it’s kind of my thing, my hobby, and I’m doing it long term, so I started the Facebook page called Million Bottle Pledge; the idea being if I do similar trips as much as possible in the summers, I might one day clean up a million bottles, cans, and cups from Canada’s roads, trails, and parks.”

Sward picked up a clicker counter to help him keep track of the pieces of litter he was cleaning up and said he’s at about 75,000 so far.

Now in the midst of his third run beginning in Vancouver, he added it’s a great way to see the country, clean up the roads a bit and hopefully help spread the word that it’s not cool to litter.

“(I enjoy) the experience of being out on the road, appreciating nature and making it that much nicer for the next person who comes along on a bicycle or on foot; hopefully everyone who stops to chat with me might be impressed and tell their friends about it, and then that’s a small group of people who’ll never throw anything out of their car again,” Sward said with a laugh.

“The more people who are like that, the better off we’ll be in years to come.”

Sward pushes a three-wheeled baby carriage that carries his supplies, bags of trash and is complete with a solar panel that charges his devices.

He added one of the things that motivated him was taking trips back and forth across his home province of Ontario and admiring the scenery during the drives, which gave him an appreciation for the country at large.

“I just remember looking out the window and developing a deep love of Canada because of the beautiful countryside and it pains me to think that now, if young people are driving and might look out and see how beautiful it is, but wonder why there’s so much trash on the road?” Sward said.

“I’ve heard that from travellers from other countries that have been here and are surprised and disappointed that we throw so much trash on the highways when it’s such a beautiful country.”

Sward added he often donates the bottles and cans he picks up to whatever charities are doing bottle drives in the towns he runs through, and the most common types of litter found on Canada’s highways tend to be coffee cups, beer cans, energy drink cans, and fast food bags.

“It’s funny because as I’m approaching a town I can tell what restaurants are there by what’s on the side of the road, whether it’s a Burger King or an A & W.”

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