What pops up in your mind when you hear ‘beach’? The picture probably involves blue water, soft sand and trees that provide some shade for the sunbathers. What about plastic bottles, cigarette butts, food wrappers and beer cans? These don’t seem to belong to the ideal imagery of a beach, yet it is the reality we’ve created.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the U.S., billions of pounds of trash enter the ocean and lakes each year. Some sink, some get consumed by marine animals, and some get washed up to our beaches. Out of the pollutants that ends up in the water, most of them come from human activities, especially along coastlines.
Plastic waste gets swallowed by the waves and tides but remains indigestible by the ecosystem. Thanks to human genius and innovation, the convenience brought by plastic comes at an immense, tragic cost on nature. A highly persistent material, plastic waste has long-lasting impact on our environment.
It may take you 45 seconds to drink water from a plastic cup, but the cup itself takes 450 years to dissolve. And it finds a way back to us — microplastics are in the air we breathe and food we eat. In August 2020, microplastic particles have been found in human organs for the first time. Well, karma is a bitch.
Here in Canada, home to the Great Lakes, people love going to the beaches in the precious summer months. Yet thousands of kilograms of plastic garbage are piling up on the Canadians shores, from Vancouver Island to Lake Ontario. This summer, Oxygenate participated in the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup and organized bi-weekly cleanups in beaches within the GTA.
Peter Stanford was one of the participants of the first cleanup at the lakeshore, he said it doesn’t feel like work when you’re cleaning up with a bunch of friendly faces. A national conservation initiative started in Vancouver and expanded across Canada, the Great Shoreline Cleanup has seen 27,8000 cleanups since 1994. Our cleanups took place in Woodbine Beach, Scarborough Bluff, Mimico Waterfront Park and Vimy Ridge Parkette and Beach.
For Mary Sabzavi, the Scarborough Bluff cleanup was the first beach cleanup she has participated in—and she’s ready for more. “It was an opportunity for me to give back to nature and learn how to properly recycle my waste.”
Danica Abrams was a participant of the fourth cleanup at Vimy Ridge Parkette and Beach. “It felt good to get out and get some exercise while also doing a great thing to help the planet,” said Danica. She was surprised by all the thanks she received from beachgoers while picking up garbage. “It seems like people understand the importance, but you’d think more people would dedicate their time to small things [to help].”
“[It] feels great to hang out with like-minded people and it’s a real opener about the state of the world. A little cleanup goes a long way,” Peter said. “If everyone started pitching in, taking it one step at a time we’d have a greener tomorrow in Toronto.”
- Cigaret butts: 955
- Paper: 231
- Bottle caps: 184
Beach cleanups are a great initiative to prevent waste from entering or returning to the ocean and lakes. Nonetheless, the key solution to plastic pollution is to reduce the amount of plastic we use and discard. So many of our essential products are made and packaged with single-use plastics; it takes all of us to make eco-conscious choices in our daily routine—one step at a time. If you’re looking for a more sustainable alternative to your toothpaste tubes, check out our tooth bites! And follow our community account for future cleanups:)
This article was written
By Vicky Qiao