We hope you join us for the shoreline clean up in September. The Lower Maitland Stewardship Group will meet at the bottom of North Harbour Road, at the entrance to the Menesetung Bridge. We will spend about an hour and a half cleaning up the shores of the Maitland River. Concurrently, the Coastal Centre will be leading a clean-up at the Goderich waterfront. We will all come together for refreshments and door prizes at the Main Beach.
The following is an article by Karen Alexander at the Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation about the importance of cleaning up plastic from the Great Lakes.
Great Lakes Plastic Pollution: the solution is you
Plastic pollution is emerging as a serious threat to the Great Lakes. Recent studies by US researchers have discovered that concentrations of plastic in the Great Lakes are higher than those in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – a sea of floating plastic spanning hundreds of square kilometers discovered in the Pacific in the 1970’s.
All plastic littered across the landscape eventually makes its way to the lake through storm water drains, creeks, streams, and rivers. Once in the lake, plastic floats and can be carried out into the lake, or wash along the shore.
Large plastic litter items can entangle and harm wildlife, carry aquatic species beyond their normal range, and decrease the aesthetic beauty of the Great Lakes. Small pieces of plastic may be mistakenly ingested by local wildlife causing choking, or if swallowed, malnourishment and / or starvation.
Plastic fragments continue to degrade until they become microplastic pieces. Microplastics can also come from other surprising sources such as personal care products like facial cleansers and body scrubs that contain the ingredients polyethylene and polypropylene, both micro bead plastics. Synthetic fibres from laundered clothing are also a source because, like personal care products, the microplastic ingredients are small enough to wash through sewage treatment plants directly into the lake. Even plastic pellets, industry’s raw plastic material used to create virtually all plastic products, are being found in the lake and on the shore. These pellets are likely coming from spills during transport over land and /or water.
As plastic pollution accumulates in the Lakes, the amount of plastic debris washing onto shorelines is also increasing. Combine what is washing in with what is left behind by beach goers, and the Lake Huron coast can start to look like a regular old garbage dump. In 2014, community volunteers helped remove over 10,000 plastic articles from nearly 40 km of Lake Huron shoreline. The most common litter items found are cigarette butts and single use food containers like wrappers, cups and straws.
Garbage covered beaches are not OK for groups like the Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation who are working hard to coordinate beach clean-ups and educate beach-goers about the importance of properly disposing plastic litter items.
One of their campaigns is titled “Butt Free Beach” and targets cigarette butt litter on public beaches. Cigarette butts are made of a fibrous plastic that will never biodegrade. The campaign piloted successfully in Grand Bend in 2013 and has since expanded to Canatara Park, Goderich waterfront, Station Beach, and Sauble Beach. The program offers recyclable, re-useable cardboard ashtrays for smoking beach goers to responsibly dispose of cigarette butts as opposed to burying them in the sand.
Of course the best way to reduce plastic pollution in the lakes starts with responsible plastic consumption, coupled with proper disposal or recycling. Beach clean-ups remain a last resort option for managing the impacts of plastic pollution.
The Coastal Centre is excited to partner with the Lower Maitland Stewardship Group to organize a Great Goderich Shoreline Clean-up for the Goderich waterfront and the Maitland River Valley on September 12, 2015. Volunteers are needed to make this event a success. To register for the clean-up please visit www.shorelinecleanup.ca. For more information, contact Karen Alexander (Karen.firstname.lastname@example.org) or Rachel White (email@example.com).