One of the events that motivated me to start this blog was participating in the Great Canadian Shoreline Clean-Up. I have always wanted to join a group clean-up event with my daughter, but always seemed to miss them. This year, we were able to catch the tail-end of the event. Luckily, there was a site nearby, so we set off on the morning of September 25th to Taylor Creek Park, at Coxwell and O’Connor. Taylor Creek is a tributary of the city’s Don River, branching east from Don Mills along O’Connor and then southeast to the golf course at Victoria Park. It is a great spot for walking, and this was the first time we visited the park since moving into the area last year.
We met up with the organizers, who happened to be members of the Toronto Field Naturalists. We teamed up in pairs (three for us with my daughter), equipped with a garbage bag, a recycling bag, a box for sharp objects, working gloves, and a clipboard to tally the objects found. We decided what sections of the river we would tackle, and off we went.
I was not sure what to expect when we got to the river bank. I was kind of picturing a lot of water bottles, food wrappers and such. I was surprised by what we found. A lot of plastic bags. A lot.
And they weren’t floating around or washed up on shore for us to easily pick up. They were twisted and knotted in branches and the roots and trunks of trees everywhere. At times, they were tangled in branches many feet above the water, probably washed ashore during higher water levels in spring We spent a lot of time just picking away at the bags, giving up on some and some just disintegrated, becoming tiny bits that would float in the water and eventually be eaten by poor, unsuspecting fish.
We didn’t find a lot of the garbage that one would find at the beach – water bottles, cigarette butts, food wrappers, etc. This was probably because Taylor Creek is a pretty quiet park. So it was obvious the plastic bags did not originate there. Seeing all those plastic bags I could really understand the message in the video, The Majestic Plastic Bag, and see how damaging a plastic bag can be. It can fly. It can float. It can travel great distances from it’s origin. And for all intents and purposes, it will break down, but never biodegrade, left forever to poison our fish.
I also found a lot of suspicious bags that had been knotted. You guessed it, poop and scoop bags. How ironic, that our poop and scoop laws designed to keep feces from contaminating our public spaces and water system, is actually also creating more pollution. Since this clean-up, I’ve been noticing discarded poop and scoop bags everywhere. Time for Toronto to rethink this bylaw. There are other municipalities that have more effective ways to deal with dog poop problems.
Being a small park, there were only about 8 volunteers at this site. In three hours, we didn’t even cover a kilometre of shoreline, that’s how much garbage there was. Next year, I want to inspire my high school students to join this event. Our youth need to see the reality of the problem of pollution for themselves, and our shorelines need all the help they can get.
I can’t express how saddened I was to see the sorry state of the river bank. Plastic has become a permanent part of its landscape.
I’ve listed local clean-up events under Environmental Action. Spring is coming. Find a local event and sign up for it. Or organize something in your area. Involve young people. Hopefully, t will inspire them, and us, to be more responsible.