Clayoquot CleanUp volunteers eye a mound of marine debris collected along the shoreline of Flores Island in Ahousaht First Nations territory. Kait Rogers Photo

‘Plastic Beach’ film sheds light on marine debris along B.C.’s coast

Clayoquot CleanUp and Sitka collaborate on conservation.

On Dec. 13, planet-loving folks joined the Clayoquot Cleanup team at Shelter Restaurant to watch the Tofino premiere of the short documentary ‘Plastic Beach’ directed by Cam MacArthur and produced by the Sitka Society for Conservation.

Filmed in unceded Ahousaht, Hesquiaht, and Tla-o-qui-aht Territories, the film highlights Clayoquot CleanUp’s beach cleaning process over the course of several weeks, from collecting and sorting the debris, to the final stage of slinging it off the shores to be recycled and repurposed.

“You hear a lot about plastic straws and plastic bags, but the thing that is out there the most is Styrofoam. It’s the hardest thing to clean up. I had no idea there was that much out there,” MacArthur observed during filming.

“It’s like you pick-up a handful of sand and there is more Styrofoam there than organic matter.”

At the helm of Clayoquot CleanUp is Captain Josh Temple.

“Like you saw in the film, the volume of the [marine debris] that is coming in is increasing exponentially every year,” said Temple at the premiere. “It is shockingly bad how much stuff is coming in. That beautiful stretch of coastline that we cleaned up in Hesquiaht, you know that 30 kilometres is already inundated again and it’s been just over a year.”

Misty Lawson, a Clayoquot CleanUp volunteer who was born and raised in Tofino, participated in almost all of the shoreline clean up missions featured in ‘Plastic Beach’.

“When you see a film like this and you look at the amount that was collected, it’s very overwhelming,” said Lawson.

She said the clean ups are fun, but also quite emotional.

“It’s a range of emotions. It’s like extreme depression, but you know you’re making a difference. It’s good,” Lawson said.

During the evening, Temple encouraged a round of applause for Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns. On Dec. 5, a motion put forward by MP Johns to combat marine plastic pollution was passed unanimously by a vote in the House of Commons.

“It’s touching that you have somebody at that level fighting for organizations like ours here on the ground,” said Temple.

“Even if another piece of plastic didn’t go in the ocean for the rest of our lives, we would still be cleaning up all the stuff that’s already gone in the ocean during our generation and the generation before.”

READ MORE: MP Gord Johns’ ocean plastics motion passes unanimously

READ MORE: Tofino locals organize massive cleanup of Clayoquot Sound

At the end of the night, the Sitka team surprised Clayoquot CleanUp with a contribution of $10,000 for their ongoing conservation efforts.

“What you’re doing is very meaningful and inspiring, that’s for sure,” said a representative from Sitka.

Clayoquot CleanUp is an environmental non-profit that specializes in emergency spill response, accumulated debris removal, and aquaculture site deconstruction and removal.

In June 2017, Clayoquot CleanUp set a record for cleaning the longest continuous stretch of coastline in the world.

To learn more, visit www.clayoquotcleanup.com.

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