95 kg of trash collected at Queensborough shoreline cleanup

This is a guest post by Karla Olson, site director of the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup event that happened in Queensborough last Sunday.

Cleaning up the Cleanup: 13 of the 28 participants from the GCSC in New Westminster. Photo: Margaret Macaulay
Cleaning up the Cleanup: 13 of the 28 participants from the GCSC in New Westminster. Photo: Margaret Macaulay

On Sunday, September 25, the Carter Foreshore Park and the South Dyke Road from Gifford Street to Boundary Road in Queensborough were targeted for cleanup by 28 people who participated in the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup. Even though downpours occurred just before and after, the event was rain free.

Participants came from Delta, Surrey, New Westminster and Vancouver. Local participants included NWSS teachers Axel Krause and Luke Mayba and several of their NWSS environmental club students, Councillors Jonathan Cote and Bill Harper, and NWEP Directors Andrew Murray, Marcel Pitre, and Andrew Feltham (who was also the Invasive Plant-Pull Leader).

Councillor Bill Harper, Rupinder Kaur and Amy Dhatt. Cleaning up the Cleanup: 13 of the 28 participants from the GCSC in New Westminster. Photo: Margaret Macaulay
Councillor Bill Harper, Rupinder Kaur and Amy Dhatt. Cleaning up the Cleanup: 13 of the 28 participants from the GCSC in New Westminster. Photo: Margaret Macaulay

At first glance, participants wondered what garbage could be found. After 2 hours, starting the list with some of the more unusual items, they found a set of house keys still attached to a backpack, 1 chair, lots of caution tape, a door knob, 3 knickknack statues, a bucket full of hardened cement, a nail clipper, paint cans and lots of garbage: 93 plastic bags, 40 glass beverage bottles, 66 pop cans, 91 food wrappers, 4 bleach containers, 17 buoys, 2 fishing lines, 8 oil bottles, 2 tires, 50 large pieces of Styrofoam, and the number one littered item: 157 cigarette butts found concentrated around the lovely sitting and viewing areas that the City recently put in.

Collecting approximately 95 kg of litter was a bittersweet moment for participants.

Marion Orser and Councillor Jonathan Cote. Photo: Margaret Macaulay
Marion Orser and Councillor Jonathan Cote. Photo: Margaret Macaulay

“I was surprised and disappointed to see how much garbage we actually found,” said Jonathan Cote, Councillor for New Westminster. “We saw everything from paint cans to furniture. Our riverfront is a sensitive environment and we cannot allow it to become a dumping site.”

Cleanups can be difficult because success can really feel like defeat for the participants. Every person experienced it. When they returned to the gathering area with their bag of collected garbage, they all had big smiles on their faces until the moment they saw the amount of garbage that others had also collected. It was a difficult moment to witness this loss of joy. But no one person could have achieved what we did that day. Seeing the achievement of the group effort and realizing that people can change things makes all the difference.

“It was inspiring to see the diversity of those who participated as well as how many young people showed up. Collectively, in the space of a few hours, a real difference was made and demonstrates what is possible,” said New Westminster Environmental Partners Director Andrew Murray.

Right from the start when people showed up, they could see that the City of New Westminster had loaned us gloves, some tools to collect the garbage, and that they were coming the next day to pick it up made people not only feel better, but supported. To help improve the positive impact we also planned an invasive plant removal at the same time.

“I’ve done many Shoreline Clear Ups before and that was the best attended, most motivated volunteers, and most productive I’ve been to. I really liked that we did the invasives removal,” said invasive plant-pull leader Andrew Feltham. “A nice change from picking up other people’s garbage!”

For 2 hours, participants pulled, dug, and carefully collected every part of the invasive Japanese Knotweed from one area in front of the Suzuki Street viewpoint walkout. So invasive is this plant that it can re-grow if even the smallest stem part is left on the ground. It is for this reason, 6 bags of Knotweed were slated for safe disposal as garbage pickup. Other volunteers freed a nearby Douglas fir from being strangled and possibly toppled by English Ivy, resulting in 4 bags of organic yard waste.

New Westminster can be proud.

New West volunteers needed for Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup this weekend

Two plastic pop bottles washed onto the bank of the Fraser River in Queensborough. Photo courtesy NWEP.
Two plastic pop bottles washed onto the bank of the Fraser River in Queensborough. Photo courtesy NWEP.

When I was young and living in Alberta in the 1980’s, I belonged to the Dairy 4-H Club. One of our big projects every year was Highway Clean-up. We picked up garbage on the side of the Highway for probably about 4 hours on a Saturday afternoon. It was amazing to see the amount of garbage that littered the side of the road.

Fast forward to 2011. Have we as humans learned our lesson about littering? It seems that we as a collective whole have not. That is why The Vancouver Aquarium partnered with TD Canada Trust and started the Great Canadian Shoreline Clean-up, happening this weekend in New Westminster and beyond.

Every year tons of garbage collects on the vast shore lines of Canada and across the world. Marine life eat cigarette butts and get caught in plastic pop rings. Also, plastic never fully decomposes in the water, it breaks down into minute particles, which are then swallowed by fish, and then we consume the fish. We are literally eating our own garbage.

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup is an annual event that helps keep our oceans, rivers, and lakes healthy. People from all across Canada join in to remove the human-made litter and garbage that was either dumped or accidently deposited into our water systems. This year, with the City of New Westminster, the New West Environmental Partners (NWEP) has committed to taking care of two sections along the Fraser River: the Carter Foreshore Park and the South Dyke Road. There is also a group working on the Central Valley Greenway in Sapperton.

As a volunteer, you can take part in the shoreline cleanup along with an invasive plant pull to help take care of our portion of the Fraser River. The Cleanup is about more than just picking up garbage. An important part is collecting data on the numbers and types of garbage found. As a volunteer, you will see for yourself the types of litter people throw out and which have the highest amounts. Having this data helps people to understand the behaviours that lead to littering and find ways to get people to stop.

Let’s do the environment and ourselves a favour and spend one day picking up garbage along the shoreline. The event runs this weekend, but it’s not too late to sign up.

Please visit: http://shorelinecleanup.ca. There is a search function; just type in New Westminster. There are a few different New West locations that are available for you to sign up with:

On Sunday, September 25, the tide will be low, making it perfect for an hour or two of shoreline clean-up. The City is providing bags and will make sure that the collected trash and invasive plants will be properly taken away and disposed of. All you need to do is show up and make sure you are dressed for the weather and for being outside—boots/shoes that you don’t mind getting a little muddy and pants and long-sleeved shirts/jackets to protect yourself from reeds and tree branches. Participants under age 19 must bring a signed waiver to participate.

Let’s put on our rain boots and gloves for Mother Nature!

Event Details:

  • What: The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup – New Westminster
  • Date: Sunday, September 25
  • Start Time: 9:30AM
  • Meeting Location: walkout at Suzuki Street and S Dyke Road in Queensborough, New Westminster
  • Wear: boots/shoes that can get muddy, long pants, gloves
  • Tools for the Invasive Pull: shovels, pitch forks, pruning shears, hedge clippers—remember to label/mark your tools for identification
  • Good to Have: water, snacks, etc to
  • Participants under 19 must attend with their parent or guardian or bring a signed waiver with them. Waivers can be printed off the website.