Across the waters just to the south of Cortes Island, the qathet Regional District has been carrying out extensive beach-clean-ups for several years. The most recent outgrowth of this program is the opening of BC’s first Ocean Plastic Depot in Powell River, last month. Abby McLennan, from Let’s Talk Trash, says that the beach clean-up program started in 2017.
How the beach clean-ups began
“A resident, who spends a lot of time on his boat, contacted the Regional District and asked. ‘If residents are out on their boats and we see debris is there not a way that we could pick it up and bring it in for free disposal to Augusta – which is where we bring our waste in Powell River. From that one little letter, that one resident wrote, my manager at the Regional District put forward a proposal to the elected Board of Directors for a shoreline clean-up initiative,” she said.
Which beaches do they clean?
Harwood Island was added to the list in 2018.
“Last year Hernando, which is just north of Savary Island and pretty close to you guys on Cortes, got on board. They circumvented their entire island and, since it has never been cleaned before, brought a massive load of debris.”
There are smaller annual clean-ups in Mainland Powell River, hitting any south facing bay.
What do they do with the debris?
“Our first year, most everything went straight into landfill. Then we became aware of the Ocean Legacy Foundation, which is a really great clean-up organization that also delves into education, infrastructure, policy and advocacy. They wanted to go one step better than just picking up marine debris and disposing it into landfill,” explained McLennan.
Most recyclers do not want to work with ocean plastics because they are degraded, due to their long exposure to the elements, and covered with salt water.
The Ocean Legacy Foundation developed partnerships with recyclers in the Lower Mainland, who are willing to work with ocean plastics.
McLennan says that 90% of the debris from the District’s beach clean-up can be turned over to the Ocean Legacy Foundation.
BC’s first Ocean Plastic depot, which opened up in Powell River last month, is a joint project of the Ocean Legacy Foundation and qathet Regional District .
Lets Talk Trash
This concludes a series of two interviews with Abby McLennan from Let’s Talk Trash in Powell River. Let’s Talk Trash is both an hour long monthly radio program broadcast over Power River Community Radio, CJMP 90.1 FM, and, since 2011, also the qathet Regional District’s Waste Reduction Education Program.
qathet Regional District
The qathet Regional District stretches from the ferry terminal at Saltry Bay, north along the coast to Toba Inlet. Hernando, Texada, Savary, and Lasqueti islands are all within its boundaries. More than 65% of the inhabitants live in Powell River (2016 pop: 13,157).
Hernando Island, Savary Island, and smoke from the mill at Powell River are all visible from the eastern shore of Cortes Island. They are also within the broadcast area of Cortes Radio, CKTZ, 89.5 FM.
Top photo credit: Debris from Hernando Island beach clean-up – courtesy Lets Talk Trash
This program was funded by a grant from the Community Radio Fund of Canada and the Government of Canada’s Local Journalism Initiative.