With the sun rising into a clear sky above the Scarborough Bluffs, Sunday provided the perfect backdrop for the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup.
The only problem? Only six people volunteered to help at the Sept. 19 event.
Gisela Bach has been organizing the Guildwood chapter of the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup for the past eight years. She says she’s frustrated with the lack of interest from the community.
“This never decomposes, ever,” Bach said as she held up a Styrofoam food container. “So what it does is breaks apart in very small pieces and floats on top of the water. Then at night feeding animals come up, see it as food, eat it, then die because of it. This is something people should think about, you know, but they don’t.”
Bach and her friend Roy Wright, president of Save the Toronto Bluffs, have made it their mission to keep the Bluffs clean, even if no one else wants to help.
Wright has personally adopted the beach at the bottom of the Scarborough Bluffs and cleans it on a regular basis, he says.
He insists that getting access to the areas that need cleaning is as painstaking a task as getting people to volunteer.
“There is no service pickup for garbage down there and that’s the problem,” Wright said. “I have to make arrangements with the park supervisor, who has to make arrangements with someone else to get to the conservation authority to open the gate so we can drive down the service road to pick up all the garbage down there.”
All of the garbage found during Guildwood’s Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup is documented on data cards carried by volunteers. Most is cups and empty food containers. One pair of volunteers found a cellphone and a pair of shoes.
“Last year, a cleanup out in Burlington found a wedding dress,” Bach said.
Bach tallies up the data cards and sends the information to the Vancouver Aquarium, where the event originated. From there, the data goes on to The Ocean Conservancy, which collects numbers from several sources and determines how much trash was removed during the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup.
In 2009, more than 160,000 kg of garbage was removed from 2,475 km of Canadian shoreline.