Home > Featured News > Fall Shoreline Cleanup Tackles Plastics

Over 20 volunteers came out for a Rideau River Shoreline Cleanup on October 2nd,   organized  by Jake Wilson on behalf of REAL.  While the weather was a little wetter than people would have liked, over 370 pounds of garbage was retrieved. 

The morning group started at the Bascule Bridge and also did cleanups at Turtle Island, Lower Reach Park and behind Heritage House Museum.  The afternoon group started at the boat launch off near the intersection of Jasper and Eric Hutcheson Roads and also worked on the other side of the river near along Highway 43, near the Edmonds Lockstation overflow dam. The work was done on foot, but one participant used a canoe to get some garbage in the water near the Hwy 43 site. 

Plastic garbage in inland waterways flowing out to sea is contributing to large patches of plastic waste in the world’s oceans. Plastics are having detrimental effects on all forms of marine wildlife, and has been well documented in phytoplankton, sea turtles, seabirds and fish.  Eventually plastics  break down into smaller pieces,  becoming microplastics and nanoplastics.  Microplastics have been found virtually everywhere in our environment – oceans, arctic ice, fish, air, drinking water, shoreline sediments and more.  The health effect of humans ingesting plastics is still not well understood. 

This was the year to draw attention to the plastics problem.  Back in March, Jake gave a presentation, “Plastics in our Waterways” a collaboration of  REAL’s Journey to Sustainability committee and the Rideau Roundtable.   Jake covered why it is important to protect our waterways, the problem of plastics in our rivers and lakes,  and simple ways for everyone to help in their daily lives.  .  A recording of the zoom presentation is available here.  A similar presentation was given to the Rotary Club of Smiths Falls, and started the discussion about a potential cleanup.  Unfortunately, the COVID situation led to the cleanup being postponed until the fall.   A summary of the project was presented to Smiths Falls Council on November 15.  Jake’s report can be viewed here, and includes some photos and a breakdown of the garbage collected.

Jake also organized a shoreline cleanup over four days in October 2020, which gathered 392 pounds of garbage.  Shoreline cleanups used to be an regular event for REAL.  In the mid 2000’s REAL did several fall cleanups in the canal behind the Chambers Street Mall.  A group of scuba divers would snag junk (including many shopping carts) which would be pulled up by volunteers on shore.

Thanks to everyone who participated in this year’s cleanup.

Some ways individuals can address the plastic problem:

  1. Clean up the garbage from the river banks and beaches. Picking up garbage from ditches or the streets is also effective, because that plastic will likely flow into the waterways when large rainfalls happen.
  2. Dispose of trash properly, ensuring that all of your personal trash ends up in either recycling or the garbage can where it will be properly handled and brought to a landfill.
  3. Reuse and recycle whenever possible, and avoid buying single-use plastics.
  4. Stop buying polyester clothing made of plastic, and instead buy cotton or other natural-fiber clothing materials.