Georgian Bay Forever: Reducing Plastic Pollution in the Georgian Bay Area

Georgian Bay Forever is a charity dedicated to scientific research and public education on Georgian Bay’s aquatic ecosystem. JSGB thanks GBF for submitting following piece which outlines some of the work they are doing to reduce plastic pollution getting into the Georgian Bay aquatic environment.

It is estimated about 10,000 metric tons of plastic debris enter the Great Lakes each year. There is growing evidence that plastic litter is known to harm wildlife through physical ingestion stress and poisoning from chemical association. Although the harm to humans is largely unknown, the World Wildlife Fund estimates we are consuming a credit card worth of plastic every week.

Capturing microplasticsGeorgian Bay Forever, under our project, “Divert and Capture: The fight to keep microplastics out of our water”, is leading a number of initiatives to measure and curtail microplastic pollution (plastic pollution less than 5 mm in size). These include: concluding a 100 household Parry Sound washing machine filter study to capture microfiber/plastic pollution that sheds from your clothes before it gets into freshwater, and a 300-household washing machine filter program that just began in Collingwood in the fall of 2020.

In addition to diverting microwaste from about 400 households, both programs include education on reducing single-use plastic, and plastic and waste from clothing, and helping to organize shoreline cleanups. The results of the Parry Sound study will be available in early 2022 and will be shared with consumers and policy makers to push towards filters being installed in washing machines (Consider supporting current Ontario Private Member’s Bill 279 ) , and other policies to reduce microwaste entering water bodies from washing your clothes.

The Diversion 2.0 project builds on our projects to mitigate plastic litter and waste getting into the aquatic environment through trash trapping technologies, citizen advocacy and education. The goal is to capture 6,577 kilograms of litter, provide information to 2000 people, engage 40 volunteers, and help hundreds of people change their behaviours to reduce more waste. The program started in Oct 2020 and ends March 2022 and involves these elements to reach those goals:

  • Catching pollution before it gets to water. Expanding distribution of trapping trash trapping devices to more municipalities and marinas by distributing at 8 Seabins, 8 gutter bins and 2 trash traps.
  • Working with youth groups on the Yellow Fish™ campaign (brings awareness to pollution that goes down street drains and eventually into the water)
  • Providing volunteer and high school citizen science opportunities to sort and classify types of plastic waste collected in the devices.
  • Creating a volunteer group called Plastic-Free Georgian Bay to brainstorm and execute actions that help businesses and institutions reduce waste.

 

Working to reduce unencapsulated polystyrene foam from docks and floating buoys.

In 2019, in 9+ community shoreline cleanups aided by Georgian Bay Forever (GBF), polystyrene (PS) foam was the most abundant litter picked up, and one of its most visible sources was from docks where it is not encapsulated. Weather and animals lead to its fragmentation in thousands of big and little chunks that litter the shorelines; and when ingested in microplastic from PS poses a threat to aquatic wildlife.

GBF and a number of partners and other organizations around Georgian Bay are providing information that helped the successful passage of Ontario Bill 228 that bans unencapsulated foam for docks or buoys. The “Say No to Dock Foam” committee is also working to educate consumers and reduce foam litter from current unencapsulated dock foam.

GBF logoTo learn more about these projects, and check out opportunities to volunteer or donate, please email dimond@gbf.org or brooke.harrison@gbf.org

 

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