News & Updates

Neal Bonnor: Guardian of Hamilton’s Waterways

Neal Bonnor in his kayak ready for a “kayakleanup” outing.


In the serene waters of Spencer Creek, Neal Bonnor paddles his red kayak, not for leisure, but on a mission to reclaim the natural beauty of Hamilton’s waterways. Rain or shine, freezing or warm, the 60-year-old dedicates his weekends to meticulously clearing hazardous items, driven by a deep passion for the environment.

Retired since last November from the Ministry of the Environment, Bonnor’s “kayakleanup” tradition spans almost a decade. Inspired by his children’s gift of a kayak for his 50th birthday, what began as a hobby transformed into a commitment to preserving Hamilton’s waterways.

Beyond physical cleanup, which he coordinates with HCA, Bonnor conducts a study correlating weather patterns with litter data from his outings. His 2021 study, based on 29 “kayakleaning” sorts, aims to inform policymakers about litter sources and solutions. Suggestions include intercepting stormwater, using enclosed containers, enforcing waste management standards, and increasing public education.

Bonnor actively shares his experiences and insights on his blog, Cleaning by Kayak, contributing valuable information to inspire a community dedicated to the preservation of Hamilton’s natural treasures.

Read more to see Neal’s Top Ten Reasons for cleaning up litter.


Neal Bonnor’s Top Ten Reasons for Cleaning up Litter:

  1. Communing with Nature
    • Feeling a close relationship or an emotional attachment to our natural surroundings.
    • Supports good mental health and prevents distress.
  2. Exercise
    • Activity requiring physical effort.
    • Sustains or improves health and fitness.
  3. Pride in Place
    • A connection with and pride in a place.
    • Provides a sense of hope for individuals and communities.
  4. Generational Duty
    • Custodians of our natural environment, inherited from past generations.
    • Pass on our natural heritage to future generations in no worse condition than it was received.
  5. Minimizing Microplastics
    • Tiny plastic bits resulting from direct discharge or degradation of larger plastics.
    • Now exists everywhere including in humans; eco- and human-health studies are ongoing.
  6. Litter Management
    • Storm sewers discharging road litter from bin overflows and thrown from vehicles and pedestrians.
    • Stormwater management ponds and regular roadside cleanups.
  7. Societal Improvement
    • Sustainable systemic change in the interplay of the state and civil society, e.g., compostable takeouts.
    • Legitimated by the majority of societal stakeholders.
  8. Scientific Analysis
    • Critically examine the data and observations collected.
    • Correlation of litter data with weather, sewage discharge and waste management collection.
  9. Community Engagement
    • Lived experience and local knowledge inflecting decision-making processes.
    • Sense of belonging to and responsibility for our local municipality.
  10. Eco-sanity
    • Applying reason, sound science, and a respect for the rights of others to environmental issues.
    • Litter cleanup is one positive thing that most individuals can do, without bureaucracy or politics.


Photo courtesy of Neal Bonnor



Newsletter Signup

Subscribe to our periodic newsletter to keep up to date!