It started in Vancouver, now it’s a nationwide event. This year’s edition of the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup saw over 300 volunteers converge on Iona Beach — tackling the big job of collecting garbage & debris that accumulates on the shoreline.
The kickoff event for this year’s great Canadian shoreline cleanup was held at Iona Beach regional park, attracting close to 300 volunteers. It’s the 20th anniversary of this event, which started in Vancouver and has now spread nation wide.
“The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup is a conservation initiative of the vancouver aquarium and world wildlife fund,” says Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup Manager Jill Dwyer. “We’ve been around for twenty years, and what we do is we engage canadians all across the country during the third week of September and cleanup their local shoreline. This year we have over forty-thousand people taking part in cleanups this fall and over our twenty year history we’ve had over 300 thousand people participate in the great canadian shoreline cleanup.”
The event attracts a huge variety of people. Everyone from families with kids, to people who work at the airport or at Loblaw’s Superstore, Both companies are involved in the event as sponsors.
“This is a way of engaging the community and contributing to the community,” says Anne Murray, the Vice-President of Community and Environmental Affairs for the Vancouver Airport Authority. “Helping the people who work at yvr to have a place to come out and volunteer and clean up our beaches.”
Jill Dwyer believes that the event gives people a productive way to express their desire for a healthy environment.
“We hear a lot about environmental issues on the news, and often I think people are left with the feeling of, I don’t really know what to do about it. But the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup gives them something tangible that they can do. They can come out, volunteer their morning or their afternoon, pick up litter from the shoreline and they really have made a difference and I think they just leave with that feeling.”
“I feel good because I can help the environment and also the endangered species,” says a volunteer from Loblaws. “We can help them to live well by protecting our environment.”
At Iona Beach, the vast majority of shoreline garbage is Styrofoam – likely related to maritime activities. But, that’s not usually the case. Dwyer explains.
“Every year we come up with what we call our dirty dozen list and that’s the top twelve finds on local shorelines, and we see the same trends every year. It’s things like cigarette butts, plastic bags, food wrappers, beverage bottles, food containers, and what this tells us is the majority of shoreline litter actually comes from recreational activities.”
Cigarette butts are always at the top of that list.
“Most people think they’re biodegradeable” says Dwyer. “And I think that’s why people think it’s still okay to throw them down, but the filter is actually made of plastic, so this year we’re actually partnering with terracycle which is a group that recycles the unrecyclable, and we’re sending them our cigarette butts and they’re turning them into plastic pellets.
Mary Polak, BC’s minister of the environment is on hand, with a simple message.
“The cleanup is great, but we need to prevent this in the first place, and have people thinking about, every time they toss something away, every time they litter, it has an impact on our waterways and our oceans and they have the power to stop it.”
By the end of the day, volunteers had collected almost 500 kilos of waste from the Iona Beach shoreline. And that’s just ONE of the more than 600 beaches registered for this year’s shoreline cleanup.