Surfrider beach clean-up at Willows an eye-opener on plastic pollution

WatchPlastic pollution is a big problem but some items found during a Greater Victoria beach clean-up may surprise you. Tess van Straaten reports.

Carrying buckets and bags, dozens of people walk the beach in search of garbage and debris at Oak Bay’s Willows Beach.”It’s really nice to see so many people come out to support such a good initiative,” says participant Emily Patterson.

This Surfrider Foundation beach-clean up was organized by the University of Victoria’s Surfrider club, bringing together students and community volunteers to help make a difference.

“I think it’s really important because it’s a good visual way to get people involved in the issue,” says Matt Miller of the UVic Surfrider Club. “You can talk about the issue of plastic pollution on Facebook and the news and read about it but until you pick up a piece of plastic yourselves and see it, it’s not real.”

Even on a relatively clean beach like Willows, volunteers are finding a fair bit of garbage.

“Lots of different stuff,” says participant Evan Takach, showing off what he collected. “We found a bit of plastic netting that had been socked in a piece of wood that washed up, different bits of metal, a lot of different candy wrappers.”

Microplastics are sifted and all the junk is sorted so Surfrider can monitor the plastic pollution washing up and being left on B.C. shores.

And some of the things they found, might surprise you.

“Tampon applicators surprisingly are something we commonly find,” says Miller. “Shotgun shells as well — we find a lot of shotgun shells.”

“We found a pushcart, some coathangers, little bits of food packaging and plastic, which is typical,” says Katie Wilson of the UVic Surfrider Club.

Cigarette butts are the most common item, along with cans, bottles, and dog poop bags — highlighting a growing, and often preventable problem.

“It’s extremely important,” participant Matt Begg says. “We’ve let ourselves get to a point where it is a problem, so it is a very big problem and it’s kinda up to all of us to clean up our messes.”

Surfrider tries to do monthly cleanups — and effort that’s appreciated by many beach users.

“I think it’s fabulous,” Tim Parker says. “The young kids getting involved, maybe they can help us through this poisonous mess.”

With Willows Beach now a lot cleaner, volunteers are hoping people will make more of an effort to keep our coastlines clean.

Tess van StraatenTess van Straaten

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