This massive beach cleanup is happening in Metro Vancouver this weekend

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1,566 kilograms.

That’s the amount of garbage that has been picked up from the shorelines of Iona Beach Regional Park since 2010.

That number will grow on Saturday when hundreds of volunteers head out to scour the Richmond beach for every little bit of litter they can find to celebrate International Coastal Cleanup Day.

Volunteers at Iona Beach Regional Park. Photo: Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup

Rain or shine, the annual Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup event, organized by YVR and Ocean Wise, will take place.

Tanya Otero, cleanup coordinator and national program manager, said, in a nutshell, the event is about keeping our beaches clean, our waterways healthy and our wildlife safe — but it also inspired community engagement.

“Obviously cleaning up the beach is a huge, important part of it, but outside of that it’s an opportunity for community building and for people to share their passions, get outside and be in nature,” she said.

“It’s a beautiful location.”

Otero said shoreline litter is an issue no matter where you live, and it was unbelievable what sort of items were uncovered.

“We always find very interesting things,” she said. “One year, one group found the inside of a piano, that one probably takes the cake.”

Every year, the items found during the cleanups are recorded. Otera, who has been working with the program for five years, said the most common litter or items listed in the “dirty dozen” included, cigarette butts, tiny plastic pieces or foam, food wrappers and bottle caps.

“Unfortunately, the amount of plastic litter being found is still a very a big eye-opener,” she said.

The Dirty Dozen list. Photo: Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup

While there’s a big event on Saturday, if you miss it, the program encourages cleanups throughout the entire year.

So far in 2019, volunteers have coordinated 2,051 cleanups and collected 102,178 kg of litter on 3,505 km of Canadian shoreline.

The initiative began back in 1994 when employees and volunteers at the Vancouver Aquarium decided to clean up a beach in Stanley Park to protect the city’s shorelines. From that first clean up, the program expanded across B.C. and by 1997, 400 volunteers were participating in the Great BC Beach Cleanup at 20 sites.

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup became a national conservation initiative in 2002 and cleanups started popping up in every province and territory.

Since it started, volunteers have helped collect 1.7 million kg of litter.

“It’s had a huge impact,” Otero said. “We’re 40,000 km clean.

“Every year we have about 80,000 volunteers take part in the program.”

Volunteers at Iona Beach Regional Park. Photo: Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup

Otero said she couldn’t wait to see everyone’s smiling faces come Saturday and encouraged all to go along.

“If you’ve never taken part in a shoreline cleanup, this event is a great way to get your feet wet,” she said. “And, if you have, it’s a great way to just get out there and connect with people who are passionate about the environment.

“When you’re taking part it kind of reminds you of the importance of keeping our shorelines clean. You look out to the water and you see wildlife. You look up to the sky and see birds flying overhead and it helps creates that connection.”

Otero also encouraged people to do their best to reduce their single use plastic products, to help prevent the increase of rubbish making its way into the natural environment.

EVENT DETAILS

Date: Sep. 21

Time: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Registration is at 9.30 a.m.

Snacks: Free lunch and coffee will be provided. Water refilling stations are also available – just don’t forget to bring your reusable mug or water bottle!

What to wear: Dress for the weather, wear closed toe shoes and bring your rain gear.

Transport: Free shuttle buses will be running from Canada Line Templeton Station to the park, there will be a bike valet set up as the park itself has limited parking.

RSVP: Shoreline Cleanup