Surfrider Pacific Rim is riding into the New Year with a cool $40,183 donation from the Blue Friday initiative.
Blue Friday—an initiative by a group of small Canadian-based businesses as an alternative to Black Friday—reframes one of the busiest sales days of the year and aims to divert consumer dollars to eco-minded companies that pledge to donate a percentage of sales for that day.
A record breaking 40 businesses participated in Blue Friday this Nov. 26, smashing the organization’s fundraising goal of $12,000.
Surfrider Pacific Rim’s youth programming and beach clean co-ordinator Alys Hoyland says the donation from Blue Friday will be put towards removing EPS foam from local docks.
“We were also successful in getting a grant from the ACRD, so it’s a significant amount of money. We are hopeful we will be able to replace at least one if not two docks,” she said.
Surfrider Pacific Rim is currently working with the District of Tofino to establish a timeline to replace a portion of the First Street dock and they are also partnering with Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks to see about replacing the EPS foam in the Big Tree trail dock.
Hoyland says there are a couple Island-based options they are looking at to replace the EPS foam.
“It’s essentially an air-filled thick plastic float. They are super hardwearing and they don’t leak little pieces of foam into the water,” she said.
EPS foam or polystyrene is massively used for dock floatation and packaging all across Canada because it’s a super cheap material, Hoyland notes.
“Actually one of the containers that spilled up north was full of Christmas decorations that were all packaged in polystyrene and the fridges were all packaged in polystyrene too.
Further compounding the issue, Recycle BC has temporarily suspended the collection of glass bottles and foam packaging due to the unprecedented flooding and resulting highway closures across the lower mainland.
Rather than sending the foam and glass to landfill, municipalities are asking residents to hang on to the materials until the networks are restored.
“If you’ve done a beach clean and you’ve got a big piece of foam that looks like it’s been in the sea for a while, you can contact us and we can take that off your hands,” she said, adding that Surfrider Pacific Rim has teamed up with some local surfers who are transforming the big chunks of foam into surfboards.
Laurie Hannah, Surfrider Pacific Rim’s chapter co-ordinator, says the long-term vision is to ban EPS foam for dock flotation.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) Pacific is already moving in that direction too with new legislation being introduced as condition of licence for shellfish aquaculture sites. Starting April 1, 2023 shellfish aquaculture licence holders must replace exposed or degraded foam with an alternate approved air-filled float or fully encased foam to protect fish and fish habitat.
“Foam pollution is one of the most significant types of debris generated from shellfish facilities,” states DFO.
Hoyland weighs-in on the move from DFO.
“We’ve got some precedent. But that’s one small part of it. There are tons of public docks and private docks that have leaky polystyrene floats as well. In order to bring in legislation that is going to support all of these dock owners to transition to a different type of floatation, it’s going to take a lot of money. Realistically it’s going to take a mix of federal and provincial funding to make that happen,” she said.