Everything you need to know about disposing of trash in provincial parks

We are so happy to welcome visitors to Ontario Parks…

…on the other hand, we are not so delighted to see what accompanies them.

We know many of you have also noticed this and have expressed your concerns. We appreciate and encourage park-lovers who are committed to protecting our environment for the future.

So what do visitors bring along with them?

You guessed it! Garbage, garbage, and more garbage.

trash on beach

We have seen a disappointing increase in accumulated garbage around our parks.

Dispose of trash properly

As park-lovers, it’s our responsibility to dispose of all our garbage correctly.

As you say goodbye to your day-use spot, do a sweep for trash. Make sure to dispose of everything you find at the recycling and garbage cans available all over the park.

Garbage left around a picnic area

Be mindful of small plastics, such as bread tags and bottle caps, that travel with the blowing wind.

We suggest you bring a garbage bag with you to collect your trash throughout your trip. You can dispose of it before you head home at the designated garbage and recycling cans found all over the park.

At the end of a busy day, if our recycling and garbage cans are full, please find another set of cans. If you can’t find one, then take your garbage home with you and notify a staff member. Don’t forget to separate your recycling, just like you would at home!

Problem items

Diaper thrown on the ground at a beach

There are a few items we are consistently seeing disposed of incorrectly.

Diapers, wipes, and sanitary napkins can cause plumbing emergencies when flushed.

They also do not break down easily when thrown in the bushes (and are especially icky for our staff to have to pick up).

Make sure to put diapers in the trash bag that you have brought along with you, or directly into a trash bin.

We also find many single-use plastic bottles. We highly recommend using reusable water bottles and filling up at our water taps. You can ensure the water is safe to drink by visiting our Alerts page.

Plastic water bottle on the ground on a beach

Cigarette butts are small, unsanitary, and can cause serious problems. Cigarette butts have a huge impact on our wildlife, as they can be highly dangerous if swallowed by an animal.

These are not biodegradable, as the plastic fibers won’t organically break down. Cigarette butts also contain chemicals, and are a fire hazard when tossed aside.

Cigarette on the beach

Extinguish your cigarette entirely and dispose of them in the garbage or other designated receptacle.

We also discover food wrappers, single-use food containers, and beverage cans. These items don’t just impact our parks — their light weight makes them speedy travelers with wind and water currents, spreading picnic remnants far and wide.

Safety of our visitors and staff is our top priority. Please ensure contaminated gear is disposed of in the garbage. Don’t leave items on sinks, on the ground, or beside trash bins.

Why does it matter if I leave my garbage behind?

Disposing garbage properly is about much more than helping out park staff.

Leaving garbage around the day-use area or campground can invite wildlife to become pests. Campsites and other areas in the park must be kept clean at all times to minimize human-wildlife conflict.

Your trash could also be a hazard to other park visitors.

Overflowing garbage can

Leaving your trash behind could also leave you facing a fine! Under the Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act, 2006 the minimum fine for leaving behind litter is $125.00.

What can I do to help?

Other than disposing of your trash correctly, there are a few other ways you can help:

  • Add trash bags to your packing list! If you have a bag with you, you are more likely to use it.
  • Reduce waste by using reusable items. Challenge yourself to have a zero-waste trip!

Garbage cans with camp chairs stuffed in

  • Invest in quality gear, and never leave items behind.
  • Take home your firewood bag to reuse. They make great carriers for beach toys!

As park-lovers, we all need to do our part to help the environment. Think back to your last visit to the park. How did you deal with your trash? What kind of example does it set for others?

Let’s all work together to keep the parks we love clean!