The ocean just got a little cleaner.
Over a six-week period, about 180 people — including tourism industry workers and members of the coastal Indigenous communities — collected 425 metric tonnes of debris along the BC shoreline.
Styrofoam, plastic bottles, nets, ropes, abandoned boats, and tires were some of the items collected — all part of the province’s Clean Coast, Clean Waters Initiative Fund.
Kevin Smith, the CEO of Maple Leaf Adventures, was involved in the project and while he’s proud of what was accomplished, he said there’s still a long way to go.
“It’s devastatingly bad. It’s far worse than the public knows,” he said. “We really just scratched the surface. This is a far bigger problem.”
Smith said most of the debris is coming from around the world.
“What we’re seeing on the beaches is very little is coming from BC or from Canada. It’s coming from across the Pacific Ocean. An international solution needs to be brought to this,” he said.
The province called it a successful mission, but also acknowledged more needs to be done.
“We need to keep this waste out of our oceans and out of landfill,” said B.C. Minister of Environment George Heyman during a press conference on Wednesday.
Smith said most of the trash found came from the commercial fishing and towing industries and the operators must be held accountable.
“About 60 per cent of what we actually took off the beaches was clearly from large scale fishing industry. Lots of dragger balls. Something needs to be done so that these industries are responsible for this,” he said.
He also said action must be taken now because the real threat happens when the debris breaks down into microplastics, which puts marine life in jeopardy.
“Of course it’s not food for them. It kills them,” Smith said. “We need to accelerate this and get this stuff off the beaches before it degrades down to microplastics.”
Most of the debris collected will be recycled and reused.
According to the provincial government website, the materials will be processed and turned into pellets that can be used to create new plastic products.
This year’s clean-up stretched 306 km of B.C.’s coast line, but Smith said minuscule compared to the rest of the coastline that needs cleaning.
He said he and his team are hoping to plan another major clean-up for early 2022.