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Recognize this bag? Georgian Bay Forever finds history in litter

Non-profit has asked council for $5,000 to support summer program to hire students to run shore-line cleanups; 312.73 pounds of garbage were collected from Collingwood’s waterfront in 2022

Decades-old pieces of Collingwood’s history are showing up in discarded debris along the Georgian Bay shoreline, and a non-profit has asked for the town’s help to fund efforts to clean it up.

As part of council’s regular meeting on March 20, councillors will be considering a motion put forward by Coun. Steve Perry earlier this month to provide the Georgian Bay Forever Microplastics Program $5,000 to hire local summer students.

As part of the organization’s deputation to council on March 6, Ashley Morrison, project manager with Georgian Bay Forever, showed councillors some of the interesting litter found by volunteers that pointed to its longevity.

“Sunset Point proved to be a really interesting spot to harbour decades-old garbage,” said Ashley Morrison, project manager with Georgian Bay Forever.

In 2022 through 18 shoreline clean-ups, 22.9 kilometres of the shoreline of Georgian Bay were covered through the organization’s efforts, with 312.73 lbs. of garbage collected.

The most commonly collected litter as part of those clean-ups in Collingwood included 3,903 cigarette butts, 1,470 pieces of paper/cardboard, 1,116 pieces of plastic film, 751 plastic fragments and 629 pieces of foam such as food containers.

One of the items found during a Sunset Point clean-up was a grocery bag from Collingwood Valley Foods, which once stood on Ste. Marie Street where the Collingwood Giant Tiger currently stands. Collingwood Valley Foods closed in 1975.

Morrison also brought images of plastic and foam containers from brands such as McDonald’s, C’Plus and Doritos that dated back to the 1980s.

“These items go to show that when we introduce anthropogenic items such as these, they persist for extensive periods of time,” said Morrison. “While these items are dated from the early ’80s they're still in relatively pristine condition yet they've been contributing to the microplastic pollution crisis.”

Georgian Bay Forever is an organization dedicated to protecting Georgian Bay’s waterways from plastics, and is currently carrying out multiple projects that include regular hands-on cleanup, education efforts on the dangers of microplastics and a pilot project that has seen microfibre filters installed on local washing machines.

As of earlier this month, Morrison said 73.72 lbs. of lint have been diverted through the washing machine study.

The charity is advocating for mass-scale use of filters to capture microfibres that come from clothing before they ever enter the water treatment system.

If the $5,000 spend is approved by council on Monday, the summer students hired will be tasked with doing weekly shoreline clean-ups and educating the community on the efforts of plastic pollution, as well as working with and training youth and adult volunteers.

Collingwood’s regular council meeting will take place on Monday, March 20 at 5 p.m. Any members of the public may attend in person in council chambers at Collingwood town hall, or virtually by Zoom webinar. The meeting will also be livestreamed on the town’s YouTube channel here.

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Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen brings 13 years of experience to her role as reporter for Village Media, primarily covering Collingwood and education.
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