All throughout the month of May, approximately 200 schools, scout and guide groups and youth groups are spring cleaning their local shorelines as part of the spring educational program of the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, presented by Loblaw Companies Limited, and a joint conservation initiative between the Vancouver Aquarium and WWF. Earlier this month, we had the opportunity to witness two inspiring school groups in action – one in Vancouver and one in Toronto.

Spring Cleaning in Vancouver

In Vancouver, 30 students from False Creek Elementary School scoured the False Creek shoreline looking for litter, and their efforts were rewarded. Five bags of garbage and recycling in total, an estimated 20.4 kg, were removed from Vancouver’s scenic seawall.

When the cleanup began, David Proctor, a teacher from False Creek Elementary, wondered whether his class would find any litter at all. But once the cleanup started, the grade seven students quickly discovered the usual culprits – mostly cigarette butts and food wrappers.

As the afternoon progressed, students began to dig deeper into the recesses of bushes, between the rocks lining the shoreline, and under bridges – pulling nine wine bottles, a blender, a skateboard, a sponge, a geocache and a baby’s bib.

Spring Cleaning in Toronto

Students in grades three and four from Jackman Avenue Junior Public School in Toronto enthusiastically donned gloves and picked up an array of trash along the city’s Don River. Their desire to protect our environment, and understanding of the problems posed by shoreline litter, was inspiring.

“A lot of people litter. They just don’t think,” says Zoe, one of the 45 students at the school who took part in the shoreline cleanup. “They walk along the river and eat a granola bar and because there isn’t a garbage can, they throw it down.” Another student, Ben, added: “It’s bad because litter affects the water and the animals that live in and near it.”

The students cleaned up an impressive 58 kg of litter along the Don River.  The trash included styrofoam, plastic bags, rusted pieces of metal,  cigarette packaging and butts, as well as discarded clothing, an old yoga mat, plastic utensils and food wrappers.

Jackman Avenue school teacher Gillian Archibald hopes that the spring educational program will enable students to see the human impact of debris on waterways and the environment. Photo Credit: Kathryn Dorrell WWF Canada

Local Shorelines, National Effort

You can also lend a helping hand in this national effort. Sign up for the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup that takes place across Canada this September 15-23.

Be a site coordinator, or volunteer at a cleanup in your community. Encourage your friends and family to get involved. You can also register as a volunteer to help clean Western Canadian shorelines of tsunami debris.

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