Comox Strathcona Waste Management is looking at adding a depot for the collection and recycling of ocean plastic.
Following a presentation at its April 22 meeting, the CSWM board, composed Comox Valley and Strathcona regional district representatives, passed a motion to establish an Ocean Legacy Foundation (OLF) ocean plastics depot at the Comox Valley Waste Management Centre.
Services coordinator Stephanie Valdal started by wishing the board members a happy Earth Day before providing an overview of the program. OLF is a Canadian non-profit organization that works to end ocean plastic waste. It already has depots in the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District and qathet Regional District and is applying for funding from the province to establish an ocean plastics depot for the CSWM service area.
Through the program, Valdal explained, volunteers collect and sort the material. In the CSWM area, the estimate is that 160 tonnes of marine debris could be recovered annually. There would be no capital cost, and the annual operating cost to CSWM for the loading of the material is $2,800 while transportation is projected at between $9,000 and $24,000. If the depot proceeds, it will likely start sometime in 2022.
In general, board members supported the idea of collecting and removing the ocean plastic, especially if it can be reused.
Charlie Cornfield, one of the Campbell River SRD directors, said they have been following the issue for a number of years, and he is concerned about singling out fish farms as the cause of the ocean plastic, adding commercial fisheries and sport fisheries also contribute to the plastic left in the ocean. However, he supported the premise of the program.
“I’m glad to see it slated to come here,” he said.
He also asked about outreach efforts to industry.
“Here in the Comox Valley, we have really seen the industry step up,” said Valdal, who added it has been working with the Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) on issues around clean-up of so-called “ghost gear.”
Some board members were optimistic about industry efforts to respond to the challenge of plastic waste.
“I think the industry has really taken to heart trying to improve,” said Daniel Arbour, a CVRD director.
He also spoke about new initiatives coming from DFO, specifically labelling of the plastic trays used in aquaculture to identify the owners, should the equipment end up loose in the ocean.
Martin Davis, the Tahsis representative to the SRD, was pleased with the prospects of the program.
“I think the organization’s work is wonderful,” he said.
He was curious about the sources of the waste, saying from his experiences in his region he has found much waste coming from plastic bottles, possibly from Southeast Asia based on their labelling.
Valdal responded that while aquaculture waste contributes much of the plastic waste in ocean communities on the east side of Vancouver Island, on the west side items like bottles are a bigger issue.
“The material does differ depending on the region,” she said.