Walking along Esquimalt Lagoon with clean-up supplies in hand, Amanda Evans was shocked by what she found.
Thousands of cigarette butts littered the Colwood beach, which is a migratory bird sanctuary. And that’s not all that was picked up from the shoreline.
Fourteen volunteers with the Greater Victoria Green Team, in collaboration with the Esquimalt Lagoon Stewardship Initiative, picked up 2,240 cigarette butts, 59 plastic pieces, 42 food wrappers, 33 bottle caps, 21 paper cups and plates, 17 glass pieces and 14 cigar tips, as well as a number of takeout containers, foam pieces, packaging material, straws, bottles and cans and toys during a beach cleanup of the Esquimalt Lagoon and Coburg Peninsula recently.
Some unusual items, including an old airplane seat belt and a recently expired parking pass for the University of Victoria were also picked up by the team, which is a region-wide environmental volunteer program that participates in the removal of invasive plants, cleaning up beaches and volunteering on educational farms.
While the Green Team has completed a total of four beach cleanups and invasive species removal at the lagoon since May 2016, they found the most amount of garbage this time around, with the main culprit being cigarette butts – an item the team says outnumbers any other type of trash they find throughout the Capital Region.
“It was quite shocking. It’s disgusting to think people would do that to a beach … I think it’s just a lack of awareness still of the impacts that we have on the natural environment. It’s easy to think once you’re done a cigarette that it will disintegrate, but it actually takes quite a long time to break down and they’re full of chemicals,” said Evans, program manager of the Green Team.
She noted in one area at the lagoon, there was a concentration of butts, where it looked like one person had emptied their car’s ash tray.
“Things are getting better, but there are some who are not quite aware of the impact their having by not putting their cigarette butt in the garbage,” Evans said.
The Green Team will continue its work on the West Shore this weekend by removing invasive plants at Chancellor Park in View Royal on Sunday, Oct. 22 from 9:45 a.m. to 1 p.m.
For more information or to volunteer visit, meetup.com/Greater-Victoria-Green-Team.