The Garbage Harvest

Growing effort is helping to counteract a growing garbage problem on shorelines, including those in the Kootenays.

Stephen Schmuland and Max Rossouw are second-year Recreation

Stephen Schmuland and Max Rossouw are second-year Recreation

Just last year, a number of city and towns in Japan were devastated by the tsunami. One of the consequences of the disaster was tons of debris in the ocean, floating along on the prevailing currents, eventually washing up on a shore near you. Some debris has already started to show up on Canadian shores and a lot more is still to come that will need to be cleaned up.

This debris in the ocean was the result of a natural event.  Unfortunately, we tend to use our waterways, lakes, and oceans as dumping grounds on a regular basis. In the same way, this debris eventually ends up on a shoreline somewhere, polluting yet another natural space.

One of the initiatives to combat this shoreline pollution is The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup. This is a national program that started in 1994 by a group of volunteers from the Vancouver Aquarium who got decided to start cleaning up beaches in and around Stanley Park. As they collected litter and debris from the shores, they recorded and submitted what they found to a global program called the International Coastal Cleanup Program. Over the years the program has expanded to different communities across Canada and the world as more and more people joined. As of last year, there are more than 56,000 volunteers and the program is now recognized as one of the largest direct action conservation programs in the world.

In early September of this year, the second year Recreation, Fish and Wildlife students from Selkirk College went on a five-day canoe trip on Slocan Lake. It was proposed prior to the trip that they participate in the The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup.

The class started the trip from the Slocan City boat launch and ventured all the way up to the launch on the northernmost point of the lake.

They stayed close to the west side, along Valhalla Provincial Park during the trip, picking up garbage as they went along. The big pieces were easy to spot and take care of, but they were equally interested in taking care of the micro garbage, the small stuff around the size of a loonie.

The group stopped at every beach/ campground.  Over the five-day trip the class cleaned about 42 km of shoreline. They found, tires, gas cans, cigarette butts, ammo shells, plastic etc., with inflated balloons as being the strangest piece of garbage.

The good news is that for the most part, they didn’t have to pick up a lot of garbage. What they did notice was how areas that were more motorized-boat friendly and closer to the communities of Silverton and New Denver had significantly more garbage than the more remote areas in the park. Presumably this is due to the increased use of the areas which comes with the easier access.

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup is a great way for the general public to give back to the land we live on, with all its great outdoor recreational areas and the shorelines. It’s quite simple to go for a walk down the shore and pick up garbage along the way. If you would like to make it more official and be a part of the global program, check out Sign up as a site coordinator and make your own team or see if there are any groups in your area that are already ready to go.  Whatever way you do it, join the clean up and be a part of the solution.