AHOI's Green Team takes the lead on cleaning our ocean environment!
This is Daniel and Aaron, AHOI’s Green Team and this year’s AHOI Waste Busters, and we’re here to tell you a little bit about us and what our project entailed this summer.
First, we are students, who worked with Conservation Corps NL, which is a non-profit organization that provides youth with training and employment in the areas of environment and cultural heritage conservation. The Green Team program supports community-based organizations with their local conservation activities. Being from the area ourselves, we are so happy to be able to help with this work in our community!
Most of the time we were out in the field doing beach audits within the park and the local communities. This past summer we did 6 community beach cleanups and audits and 19 park quadrant sample audits. Now, for those who are wondering what a beach audit is, it's a beach cleanup where instead of throwing the garbage away as soon as the beach cleanup is finished, we instead sort all of the garbage into categories and count every piece and weigh it. We do this so we can review the data in the coming years and compare.
Park quadrant samples on the other hand are audits that are done at various places within the park. To do these audits we set a specific amount of time (30 minutes) and clean as much as we can within that time frame. The distance covered can vary widely depending on how dirty the beach is. For example we had an audit where we collected 273lbs in about 50m of shoreline and the week before we had one that was 45lbs in 300m of shoreline.
We worked in partnership with Parks Canada and Gros Morne Cooperating Association (GMCA) to reduce the impact of plastic pollution in the park and the enclave communities within.
In total, we picked up 2432lbs of garbage from 10.85 km of our beaches with the help of 123 volunteers. Within that weight was 382 lbs of rope – that’s approximately 5082m of rope! To put it into perspective for people who are familiar with our area, you could almost stretch the rope end to end, from the Bonne Bay Marine Station to the turnoff to KOA on Pond Road!
Within the data, we also recorded the main types of waste, the largest producers and the possible sources of them. This information is very useful to help us determine ways to reduce the waste on our shores and to see if measures that have been put in place, such as single-use plastic bans and other waste-reduction initiatives are working over time.
For the lobster tags, we gathered all the data we could from them and sent it to the CLEAR lab, located at Memorial University of Newfoundland.
Some of the most common items we see are shotgun shells (2773) and food packaging (1738). Since seabird hunting isn’t common in our area, there is no reason for many shotgun shells to be in this part of the ocean. They are most likely carried from other places to the area on ocean currents. Food packaging is everything from takeout containers to food wrappers.
Much of the data from this year is quite consistent to other years with some outliers. One of the primary ones is the very noticeable decrease in food packaging. Our total data of all time has food packaging and takeout at 27.4% whereas this year's data only has 14.3% which is nearly half of what the previous data would suggest. While one year of change isn't enough to know if it is a permanent change, the decrease in food packaging may be due to AHOI’s initiative to help businesses offering food service in the area switch from plastic to sustainable and biodegradable options. Also, if Canada follows through with their commitments to ban 6 single use plastics by the end of 2022, there may be further reductions.
Sometimes we find some pretty unique items. This summer they include a motorcycle helmet and face mask just off of the highway, a 10m long pipe, an industrial oil filter, a drill battery and an old paper sign warning of toxic gasses.
Another piece of data we collect is what brands are the biggest contributors of waste, this is called a brand audit. Pepsico is by far the largest single creator of plastic waste in our area at almost 30% with the next highest being Anheuser-Busch InBev at 11.9%, Molson at 10.6% and Coca Cola at 10.0%. Pepsico contributes so much waste because none of their packaging is able to break down and they are the parent company to so many other companies such as Frito-Lay, Pepsi, Gatorade and Ruffles.
We spent 3 months cleaning our beautiful shorelines, tracking data and doing our absolute best to reduce the waste so that everyone in the coming years can experience the natural beauty the region holds. If you’d like to help out, please get out and lend a hand when AHOI hosts their community cleanups next year. In the meantime, check out the results of our community beach cleanups this past summer. Unfortunately we weren't able to complete one in Woody Point, but we plan to get back there again next year!
If you ever see us or our colleagues out in the field, feel free to stop by, ask questions or even help out with an audit - the more people we have, the more waste we can remove! Make sure to check our Facebook and Instagram, and have a look at our website for upcoming events.
See you around,
Aaron & Daniel
The AHOI Green Team