Leanna Wurz may be only three years old, but the frustration she has with people who litter was clear in her voice Thursday morning (Aug. 20) during a visit to East Beach with her brother Connor and mom Rachel.
“They keep dropping their yuckies,” the White Rock youngster said after using a ‘picker’ to remove yet another offending piece of debris from the shoreline.
Embedding such care for the environment and wildlife, and the damage that pollution such as littering can have on it, in her children is second-nature to Rachel Wurz. It’s something she learned as a child, and that she wants her own children to carry throughout their own lives, she said.
“I was always taught the same,” she said. “If we don’t care, it’s just going to get worse.”
And while the family always incorporates a cleanup into their beach visits – they’ve done about a dozen so far this summer – Thursday’s efforts were part of the larger Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup. That national conservation initiative launched in 1994, and has since removed more than two million kilograms of trash from Canada’s shorelines. Last year alone, 3,012 cleanups were registered, and more than 83,000 people pitched in, according to the organization’s 2019 report.
Thursday, more than a dozen volunteers joined the Wurz family, removing a total of 69 lbs (31.3 kg) of garbage from a stretch of shoreline between the train bridge over the Little Campbell River and Finlay Street.
Cigarette butts and plastic – everything from straws to beach toys – made up the bulk of the debris. Cringe-worthy finds included feminine-hygiene products.
Wurz said the volume of debris was less than she usually sees on her visits, likely due to a spontaneous effort undertaken the day before by area residents disgusted by what they encountered.
Patricia Rogers posted her thoughts and photos on the For The Love of White Rock Facebook page Wednesday (Aug. 19), after she and three neighbours spent an hour picking up garbage along the waterfront.
“Never have I seen so much filth in the bushes as this year. People if you have to go to the bathroom go find one don’t do it off the beach. Disgusting!!!”
Commenters noted that everything from dirty diapers to bags of dog poop and broken bottles have been left behind more and more often.
One encouraged fining offenders, many expressed thanks.
Wurz said the increase in litter could be tied in part to the pandemic, as people looking to get out of the house on a nice day see the beach as the perfect place to do so; one where social distancing is relatively easy to abide by.
But, “people are enjoying the beach and not looking after it,” she said.
“I’ve seen tampons, I’ve seen diapers. People have been finding drug paraphernalia.”
Volunteer Mia Pedersen – who said she thinks of the beach “as my backyard,” and treats is with the same respect – said the weirdest thing she’s ever found left behind was an urn. The high school teacher came out Thursday in part with a hope of getting some help to remove a couple of large blankets that she had noticed three weeks earlier. Midway through the two-hour effort, items that helped fill her garbage bag included a handful of beach toys.
Alison Ito, a teacher at Southridge School, said participating Thursday made her realize the extent of the problem.
“Until we did this, we didn’t notice it so much,” she said.
Debris she and her husband, Masa, and their kids Kai, 4, and Emi, 6, collected ranged from bottle caps and cigarette butts to bags of dog poop.
“We thought people were better,” she said.
Ito added that she also wanted to participate to learn more about planning such initiatives, as she wants to do something similar with Southridge’s Green Team.
Like Wurz – who promised to post details of a cleanup planned for next month to the For The Love of White Rock Facebook page – Ito believes in the value of teaching respect for the environment as early as possible; to understand what it means to give back, and the impact a person’s actions can have.