The Garbage Gobbler – A Kitschy, Cool and Beloved Piece of BC Highway History


Little girl looking out of the mouth of a Garbage Gobbler bin
Photo courtesy L. Gilmour

Let’s take a trip down memory lane shall we?

Back to the days when things moved a little more slowly, perhaps around 1959.

Slide into a larger vehicle, one built for style, say… an Edsel? Bring the whole family on a motoring adventure and explore Beautiful British Columbia.Take one of our many modern highway systems, each a marvel of 20th century engineering. Outside you will see a seemingly endless variety of scenery. Please don’t spoil the scenery by being a litter bug! Remember to collect your trash and deposit in our Garbage Gobblers along your way.

Junior Garbage Gobbler

Created in the late 1950s, the Garbage Gobbler is a truly cool piece of transportation history. The first Garbage Gobblers were designed and created by Len Shaw, for the B.C. Parks Branch in the 1950s. Originally made from concrete (and later with fiberglass), Gobblers were placed across the province in B.C. Parks and at information points along BC highways in order to “Keep Beautiful British Columbia Green and Clean”. Junior Garbage Gobbler car trash bags were also part of the provincial litter reduction strategy. Motorists were encouraged to feed the “Junior” bags to the roadside gobblers along the way.

Sadly, Garbage Gobblers proved to be as popular with bears as they were with people and eventually had to be replaced in favour of bear proof-cans (which were not as artsy, but much more practical).

We are happy to report that the spirit of Garbage Gobbler lives on! Some gobblers have been preserved, even restored but others have sadly slipped by the wayside. Our research found fully intact Garbage Gobblers in Ashcroft, Langford and Penticton. In fact, the Garbage Gobbler is so well loved and fondly remembered that he even has his own Facebook page!

Do you have any old Garbage Gobbler pictures or stories that you would like to share with us? Any nostalgic feelings? Or perhaps you are interested in learning more about transportation history in BC? Connect with us and let us know.

You might also want to check out our “next edition” Garbage Gobblers, which debuted in 2015.

Garbage Gobbler DB
Photo courtesy D. Brown
Watch out! He’s hungry. Photo courtesy L. Gilmour
Family gobbler
The Garbage Gobbler was central in many a family photo. Photo courtesy of D. Brown
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Page 1 of 34 comments on “The Garbage Gobbler – A Kitschy, Cool and Beloved Piece of BC Highway History”

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  1. I would love to carve one out of wood. Is there someplace I could get the dimensions or drawings?
    I will eventually do a road trip to one of the remaining ones but have no time right now. Thank you.

    • Hi there Susan – there are only a handful left that we are aware of and they don’t become available too often. Keep your eyes peeled and let us know if you find one!

  2. I have so many wonderful childhood and early adulthood memories of these garbage gobblers.
    My sister amd I used to travel to to Blue River, Avola and Jasper when he worked on the railroad. We always had to stop in Birch Island, to dispose of garbage we collected to deposit into the turtle 🐢 dumpster.
    It was a highlight and nostalgia I will always remember with love.

  3. love to send in my picture of me sitting on a gg in approx 1972. Just put it on the face book page. I’m from SK. but lived in BC for a year as a child I’ve had the picture in my childhood photo album and was thinking about it this month on a trip to Kelowna, and there was the new version of the gg at the last spike historic site!!! I was so happy to see the story on the back of the new version, thanks so much for this blast from the past!

    • Hello Lynette!
      We would love to see that picture! Would you be able to send it to me directly? So happy that you liked the story on the new version – this has been a pet project for me here at the ministry – both documenting the original gobblers and helping re-invent the new ones in honour of the old ones. You can email me directly at

      • Hi Kristin – are you still involved with the Garbage Gobblers?
        We are the Dave & Janice mentioned by Lorraine at the BC Forest Museum in one of the posts in this feed. I just saw it for the first time today.
        My partner is the D. Brown in two of the above photos.
        We have photographed about 15 original Gobblers and also have a collection with 2 carved wooden ones, Gobbler t-shirts and a file of Gobbler related pictures and articles.
        Would love to talk Gobbler and share our love of Gobblers.

        • Hello, Janice!

          Yes, I am still the point person in the ministry for the Garbage Gobbler and would love to chat more. Is there a time that might work for you? I can also share the scanned document mentioned below as well. Chat soon.

          • I am always happy to talk Gobbler – any time is fine. If you email me I can provide a phone number or we can communicate by email if that is easier.
            I look forward to seeing the scanned document.

    • Hello Desirae,

      Thanks for connecting with us here. Unfortunately, we have never seen a map of the locations of the original garbage gobblers. The gobblers were distributed through BC Parks (then called Department of Recreation and Conservation), BC Highways (us) and the Department of Travel Industry (the closest modern organization to this would be Destination BC). We encourage you to reach out to BC Parks first, to see if they are able to help you in your search. Good luck and please let us know if you find anything!

  4. CTV Vancouver Island just did a story about the garbage gobble in Langford. It was part of the Sawatsky Signoff. You should be able to find it on their Facebook page tonight or tomorrow (September 13-14.)

      • Hi Tran BC……I am a curator at the BC Forest Discovery Centre in Duncan, BC and I just had a visit from Dave and Janice, Gobbler enthusiasts seaching for the elusive character. They have located 15 of the some 20 odd still in existance, and we are very fortunate to have one of them. Thanks to a local body shop, they donated hundreds of hours restoring ours to better than it’s original and according to Dave and Janice, it’s the best they have seen. So…..if anyone is interested in viewing ours, let me know….we have it well protected from the elements.

        • Hi Lorraine. Thank you for the invitation! What a fun addition to an already impressive collection of history at the BC Forest Discovery Centre. It makes us feel good when we hear about people preserving and seeking out the Gobblers.

  5. I’m an old Garbage Gobbler fan from the days when I came home on leave and my parents and I toured the interior (the brand new Fraser Canyon Highway).

    As a matter of interest, Manitoba had an equally imaginative “persuader”: The first sign said: “Put your garbage in orbit” Followed by signs interspersed a la Burma Shave signs counting down “3-2-1-”
    followed by “Orbit!” at the satellite-shaped trash can. (This was back during the Sputnik era)

  6. There is a garbage gobbler at the entrance to the Rock Creek Fairgrounds.( I’ll get a photo next time I’m there.) It’s still used as a garbage can for the Fair.

  7. Greetings from Calgary. The Garbage Gobbler shots are classic trip down memory lane. But any chance of seeing a return of these lovable “HIP” creatures along BC highways Rest Stops and picnic areas? I thought they were a “NEAT O” “CRAZY” masterpiece. It gave kids of the 50’s 60’s and 70’s something “OUT OF SIGHT” and get “CRANKED” over seeing on those long drives. L O L. My favorite GOBBLER Anarchist Pass Ossoyoos HWY 3 View point turn out.

  8. I believe there is a garbage gobbler still in Williams Lake BC, he is stored up behind a locked compound heading north along the highway just as you are headed up the hill.