Saturday, the beaches ringing Sidney’s Tsehum Harbour will join, at least for a couple of hours, the frontlines of the global war against polystyrene, better known by its brand name of Styrofoam.
Peninsula Stream Society lead the charge in the clean up around the busy harbour, itself near a bird sanctuary and a residential area.
Brian Koval, assistant coordinator for Peninsula Streams Society, said the area was last tidied in 2017.
“The issue with harbours of course is that things off come boats, things come off docks, especially Styrofoam,” said Koval, who is hoping that some 50 volunteers will join him in Resthaven Park, starting at 10 a.m.
According to Francesca Loro, the society’s stewardship and education coordinator, about 30 people have already signed up. “We had almost 50 volunteers at our holiday beach clean-up last year,” she said.
Scientists consider polystyrene, along with various types of plastic, one of the worst threats to aquatic life of all sizes and kinds. It is unclear how much Styrofoam floats in the ocean. It makes up countless items including food containers such as plates and cups but also household items. According to one study, Americans throw away an estimated 25 billion Styrofoam cups every year, or about 82 cups per person.
It is against this scourge Saturday’s cleanup takes up arms.
“The big chunks, of course, could get eaten,” said Koval. “That’s not good for [acquatic life], and as it breaks down, it gets smaller and smaller, and smaller organisms end up eating them.”
Eventually, it will get so small, that smaller filter feeders will absorb it, he added.
This phenomenon does not exempt humans though. While polystyrene never fully degrades, it absorbs other chemicals from the environment, which then bio-accumulate up the food chain, affecting human health.
The society will supply gloves and equipment. Interested volunteers can also bring their own.
Organizers will also show how to sample for forage fish, small fish that eat microscopic plants and animals drifting near the ocean surface, then serve as food supply for larger fish.
Finally, the event will also include a visit from Santa and a post-clean up social event with warm drinks.
Events like Saturday’s can make a major difference for both the environment and the public purse, said Koval.
“Really where the money is, and really where we are saving, is the fact that that we have volunteers out there, cleaning up the beach, as opposed to having to pay municipal workers,” he said. “The in-kind contribution of the volunteer hours is just so significant towards the project.”
Like us on Facebook and follow @wolfgang_depner