Volunteers Gather Across New Brunswick To Clean Up Coasts

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Eight-year-old Kaden Gerrits walked on a beach Saturday in Chance Harbour, N.B., with a trash bag nearly half his size slung over his shoulder.

He put it down and excitedly pulled out the contents—an old bicycle tire, a plastic container, a five-pound weight.

“I tried to pick up all the litter I can,” said Gerrits, who had already been picking up at Thompson Marsh Nature Reserve for nearly an hour. “I don’t want to pollute the world. I want to save the world.”

Gerrits was one of more than 100 volunteers at more than 20 sites across New Brunswick who participated in the Great Fundy Coastal Cleanup. The annual event started in 2016.

Kaden Gerrits proudly holds his trash bag. (Lars Schwarz)

Brittany Dixon, conservation and engagement coordinator for the Nature Trust of New Brunswick, said the goal was to create a collaborative event, a day where everyone works together to clean up the beaches.

Dixon said the event has become such a success that some of the beaches they visit have very little debris to pick up.

She said the event had an impact on volunteers even after the cleanup.

Brittany Dixon is the Conservation and Engagement Coordinator at the New Brunswick Nature Trust. (Lars Schwarz)

“It kind of makes you think about your own choices and the things you buy and the single-use plastic items that you might not want to use,” said Dixon, who encourages volunteers to continue the work while throughout the year.

Dixon said the most common items found last year were rubber bands, polystyrene, cigarette boxes and lots of rope.

Sometimes volunteers find unusual debris on the shore.

Vicky Cowan, also in Chance Harbour, has been coming to events for three years. Usually she finds what is to be expected, but one year she found a radio from a fishing boat.

“We don’t know if it was dumped because it wasn’t working or if there was wreckage and it washed up on shore,” Cowan said. She said she saw refrigerators and other appliances washed up on the shore.

Fishing ropes are a common find. (Lars Schwarz)

These unexpected treasures are now part of the event.

After the cleanup, volunteers from all cleanup sites will gather for a barbecue and do a show-and-tell featuring the most surprising discoveries.

Volunteers are encouraged to write down what they find. The data collected can help organizations internationally.

Dixon said the New Brunswick data is used to determine where plastics come from, how trends change from year to year and what ends up in the ocean.

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