Action & Stewardship

Great Turnout to Care for the Comox Estuary

Photo by Ruby Berry

October 1, 2008 

Over one hundred people from all over the Comox Valley took part in the eleventh annual Georgia Strait Alliance Courtenay River Estuary Clean-Up.  It was a beautiful day for the record-breaking number of hardworking volunteers who removed over 6600 pieces of trash from the marshes, islands, roadsides and pathways of the estuary and Airpark.   A record 440 kg, almost 1,000 lbs, of garbage and recyclables, was weighed-in at the dump.

Not only is the estuary cleared of litter, we have the opportunity to examine our litter habits by recording some key items as we remove them.

Photo by Ruby BerryWe discovered that over three-quarters of the marine debris that accumulates in the Courtenay River Estuary comes from daily living activities.  The top four "Litter Villains' this year were cigarette butts (and smoking related items), disposable bags, fast food debris, and beverage containers.

One half of our local litter items are a result of smoking!   Cigarette butt disposal is a big problem and we urge smokers to resist tossing butts on the ground (A pocket "butt disposal container" would be a good "stocking stuffer" this year for that loveable smoker on your shopping list).  We urge Courtenay council to place butt disposal reminder signs and more ashtrays at the Airpark.  

Litter suggestions?  Now is a good time to make a stronger effort than ever to use recycled bags for shopping.  Be careful that garbage on the way to the dump will not blow out of your truck.  Be sure garbage cans set out for pick up are very tightly closed.  Do not leave fast food packaging on the ground.  Carefully put everything into proper garbage cans being sure they won't blow away or fall back out.  Studies show that a lot of litter accumulates near public garbage cans by "near misses" as they are tossed at the can or fall out.  Or, take fast food packaging home for your own garbage can.  Save all drink containers for recycling.  We urge our municipal governments to establish beverage container recycling bins alongside garbage cans in popular public areas.

More than 600 pieces of Styrofoam were removed from the area. Styrofoam produces a particular litter problem as it breaks up and floats, becoming more widespread in the environment, lasting a long time.  We urge citizens to take particular care to be sure that Styrofoam packaging is carefully disposed so it won't blow away or be washed into the environment and to securely cover all Styrofoam that is used for floatation.

Marine commercial activities form a small part of our local litter problem. The amount of debris, particularly rope, from shellfish farms has been dropping for the past 10 years which shows a success story of positive industry change. The BC Shellfish Growers Association and Pentlatch Seafoods supported litter clean-up this year by providing a delicious post-cleanup oyster barbeque.

Special thanks to Cathy Slater and Pat Smith for organizing the day and compiling the data. Thanks to Georgia Strait Alliance, Vancouver Aquarium and TD Bank for sponsoring the event, 1-800 Got Junk? for picking up and hauling the garbage to the dump and recycling centres, CVRD for waiving tipping fees, the BC Shellfish Grower's Association and Pentlatch Seafoods for the post-cleanup oyster barbeque, Richard Hardy of Pentlatch Seafoods and Johnny Dunstan, for barbequing, Thrifty's for juice and muffins, Porche's for offering free lemonade to the volunteers nearby, and especially the over 100 caring citizens who turned out to clean litter out of this heart of the watershed.

The Georgia Strait Alliance invites Comox Valley residents to join us in removing litter from the Courtenay River Estuary every September for the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup.