After 15 years of cleaning up the beaches of Denman Island, Liz Johnston knows the amount of plastic in Baynes Sound is not going away.
That’s why the co-ordinator of the Association for Denman Island Marine Stewards annual Denman Island Community Beach Cleanup is again looking for volunteers to assist in the annual cleanup from Sept. 21-28.
“The magnitude of what we collect is quite astonishing,” she noted. “We pick up rope, plastic fencing and so much more – and many residents do that year-round. We’re just seeing the edge of the wedge.”
She said each year, volunteers collect between four to six tonnes on debris from beaches, and added because volunteers don’t have access to every beach on the Island, they are only seeing a small representation of what is really happening in Baynes Sound.
“It’s really amazing when you realize this area is growing so much, and there is already this much debris.”
Due to local winds and tides, a huge amount of shellfish growers’ gear and equipment is driven onto Denman Island’s western shores. This includes oyster trays, anti-predator netting, plastic fencing, plastic net bags, plastic floats, styrofoam floats for rafts as well as thousands of pieces of rope.
While the cleanup has already started informally, Johnston is hoping to register volunteers at the Denman Saturday Market on Sept. 21. Registration is also being accepted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Volunteers can choose to clean a specific area of shoreline or join one of the boating or sorting teams, with the goal to clean every shoreline on Denman Island.
A drop-off and sorting event is set for Sept. 28 at the Old School recycling area from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., with a hot lunch set for volunteers.
This year, Johnston noted, in addition to the usual debris found on beaches, there is also plastic shredding from the cable ferry between Buckley Bay and Denman. While residents have been collecting the plastic for quite some time, she said that plastic becomes a concern particularly as it breaks down into smaller pieces, and birds begin to ingest it along the shoreline.
A designated shoreline area can be cleaned anytime during the week to suit schedules and tides. Volunteers need to provide their own gloves, but ADIMS will have burlap sacks available for debris. Debris can be dropped off any time during the week at the designated area at the Old School grounds.
On the final day, once sorted, anyone who volunteers is welcome to take any reusable items from the pile for art projects, farm usage or anything else, explained Johnston.
After that, all remaining items are loaded onto a flat deck trailer, and will be hauled to Vancouver for recycling by the non-profit Ocean Legacy Foundation.
Additionally, Johnston said they will send a boat to Tree Island to assist in a cleanup, while Hornby Island is also undertaking a cleanup as well.
She is co-ordinating the event with a variety of partners as well, including the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the BC Shellfish Growers and BC Ferries, who confirmed they will be sending volunteers from the organization to the event.
In addition to the cleanup, Johnston added another goal is education.
“The area is one of the most vital spawning areas for herring in the Pacific Northwest. Within the Salish Sea, it’s one of the most important ecological and biological areas, and it’s turning into a dump site. We want to show the rest of B.C. that plastic pollution, which is the size of Texas, is not in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, it’s here in Baynes Sound.”
For more information about the cleanup or to register as a volunteer, visit www.adims.ca/take-action.