by Emma Langson
We have to do something, and do it now. We have produced more plastic in the last 10 years than we did in the whole of the last century. Plastic pollution has become a man-made global catastrophe. In a world of convenience living, we’re now so addicted to plastic that we’re drowning in it.
The Plastic Oceans Foundation founded initially in the UK in 2008, to raise funds to create a feature length documentary on the impact of plastic waste on the environment, oceans and human health, has now grown to become a global network of Independent charitable and Not for Profit groups united in their aims to solve the problem of plastic pollution within a generation.
The development and creation of Plastic Oceans Foundation Canada (POFC) was gradual. Beginning in May 2014, when after learning of the problems of Plastic Waste, Emma Langson joined the international Plastic Oceans team remotely from Vancouver, BC Canada where she lives with her husband and 2 young children. As she stared at the Pacific coastline of Greater Vancouver with its vast mountains and endless ocean, she felt compelled to do something and inspired to help so started investigating the problems affecting Canadians. It became apparent to Emma, as she began connecting with local groups in Vancouver, that Canada consisted of incredible organisations, who were individually working to solve the issues associated with plastic waste but Canada is also the worlds 2nd largest country at around 10 million square kilometres in size and it was difficult to imagine a way to connect all the organisations together as a collective voice and Plastic Oceans Foundation Canada became a viable and important vision. The first thing Emma did was look at groups that could support the film as it was still under production then and it is exciting to know that 2 of those Canadian organisations made the final edit and feature in the final film under the solutions section.
Why Canada? Well it could not be a more perfect location to have a charity focused on protecting the ocean as Canada has the longest coastline in the world at 243,793 KM long and is home to 25% of the worlds wetlands. (15 to 25% of the prairies are considered wetlands) About 8.9% of Canada’s area is also covered by water. Canada has 10 Provinces, 2 of which do not have any coastline on any ocean. There are also 3 territories making a total of 13. Every river runs to the sea and the ocean provides 50% of the oxygen we breath. Every second breath you take is provided by the ocean so it connects to all Canadians.
Why create Plastic Oceans Foundation Canada? Well this is where the story becomes more ominous.
It is estimated that over 2.86-billion bags are used annually in Canada – 200 for every one of us. A professor at the University of Waterloo suggested there could be at least half-a-million pieces of plastic per square kilometre in some parts of the Great Lakes, equivalent to 2,500 pieces of plastic per area the size of a football field. Per the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, (NOAA) nearly 100,000 marine mammals have garbage-related deaths each year.
Canada has borders with the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic Ocean. They are home to a wide variety of marine wildlife, all of which are potentially affected by our disposable lifestyle. Aside from 230 species of fish, Canada’s marine wildlife includes the following mammals and turtles: Beluga Whales, Narwhal Whales, Blue Whales, Fin Whales, Minke Whales, Sei Whales, Humpback Whales, BowheadWhales, Northern Right Whales, Grey Whales, Sperm Whales, Pigmy Sperm Whales, Northern Bottle Nose Whales, Baird’s Beaked Whales, Blainville’s Beaked Whales, Cuvier’s Beaked Whales, Hubb’s Beaked Whales, Sowerby’s Beaked Whales, Stejneger’s Beaked Whales, True’s Beaked Whales. Killer Whale, False Killer Whale, Short-finned Pilot Whales, Long-finned Pilot Whales. Bottlenose Dolphins, Common Dolphins, Northern Right Whale Dolphins, Striped Dolphins, Risso’s Dolphins, White Beaked Dolphins, Atlantic White Sided Dolphins, Pacific White Sided Dolphins. Harbour Porpoise, Dall’s Porpoise, Harbour Seal, Harp Seal, Bearded Seal, Grey Seal, Hooded Seal, Ringed Seal, Northern Fur Seal, Steller Sea Lion, Walrus, Polar Bear, Atlantic Walrus, Snapping Turtles, Leatherback Turtles, Stinkpot Turtles and Painted Turtles.
The Canadian Steller Sea Lion populations have declined by 80 per cent over the past three decades leading to their classification as a species of Special Concern in Canada. Entanglement is the main threat with most incidents of entanglement, attributed to debris – particularly plastic packing bands. The St. Lawrence estuary population of Beluga Whales are listed as Endangered by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and researchers have found synthetic polymer fibres and plastic pellets in the digestive tracts of fish in Lake Erie, part of the great lakes.
It is not all doom and gloom. Plastics recycling rates in Canada reached a record high in 2014 where a report by CPIA showed that access to plastic beverage container recycling in Canada stood at 98 percent.
Canada is the birthplace of Greenpeace in 1971. The “blue-box” was created by a Canadian and Kitchener, Ontario became the 1st city in the world to participate in a curb side blue box recycling program back in 1981.
Environment Canada was established on June 11, 1971 and Canada became only the 2nd country in the world to have a Ministry of the Environment.
The Canadian Town of Leaf Rapids, Manitoba banned plastic bags in 2007. Montreal has announced it plans to ban bags by 2018.
More than 80 Canadian towns and municipalities have passed bans, restricting the use of bottled water on municipal properties including: Ajax; Burlington, Cornwall, London, Newmarket, Niagara Falls, Oakville, Oshawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Windsor, Waterloo, Nelson and Victoria. Most involve activities in municipal buildings but in Toronto it extends to parks, facilities and civic centres. Bottled water has been banned at the town events and meetings of the small snowy Canadian town of Blue Mountains, since 2007. Whistler BC eliminated the sale of bottled water at municipal buildings, recreation facilities and parks as of May 1 2010. Alongside this measure the resort municipality guaranteed access to tap water. The Premier of Nova Scotia announced in April 2010 that the government was omitted to banning the purchase of bottled water for provincial facilities that have good drinking water. This made Nova Scotia the first Province in Canada to move towards a bottled water ban.
Many post-secondary institutions also do the same. The University of Winnipeg became the first university in Canada to ban the provision and supply of bottled water in March 2009. Funding was then put towards new water infrastructure and water fountains on campus. Three quarters of the University’s students voted in favour of the ban. In April 2010, the University of Ottawa announced that bottled water would not be sold on campus from 1 September 2010. The move was largely driven by students. In preparation for the ban the university spent over $100,000 to improve the availability of tap water by upgrading water fountains with features including wheelchair accessibility, stronger pressure and better refrigeration, and by installing new fountains.
It doesn’t end with bans on bottles and bags. Vancouver, BC, home to Plastic Oceans Foundation Canada Founding Office, is one of the worlds Greenest Cities and has an ambitious goal to become a zero-waste community by 2040 with the elimination of all single use products.
What Next: Ultimately, there is little that can be done to clean up the plastic in our oceans – what is out there is in tiny fragments and is breaking up and is in a form that we cannot easily get to. What we can do is stop plastic material from further entering rivers and the oceans by changing our behaviour.
Rethinking Plastic and creating #awaveofchange in Canada
Awareness will be key to effecting positive change in Canada and POFC feels there is a need to target issues of plastic waste affecting all Canadians from school age children to business owners to remote communities.
Incorporating Plastic Oceans Foundation Canada as a Not for Profit federally will offer all Canadians a platform and hub where collaborations count. Creating a Social Impact Campaign, to trigger real social change in Canada through programs in Education, Business and Sustainability and Science, starting with a screening of the global documentary feature film, ‘A Plastic Ocean’ in Vancouver. By utilizing the power of film, POFC hopes to inspire individual Canadians to understand about the issues with plastic waste that affect every one, whether living inland or on the coastlines and encourage all Canadian individuals to make changes in their own lives. Providing a means to effect positive change on a local, provincial and even federal level. Rethinking plastic will be at the heart of the foundation.
‘A Plastic Ocean’ Film Release
The Canadian Premiere of ‘A Plastic Ocean’ heralds the official launch of Plastic Oceans Foundation Canada. The event will be a ‘Celebration of Vancouver’ acknowledging the collaborative efforts of like-minded organisations who have all supported the work of Plastic Oceans as supportive partners for the past 3 years, also providing a platform to showcase local businesses working towards solving the issues of plastic pollution and bring additional awareness to the issues being tackled locally.
There will be representatives attending from David Suzuki Foundation, Surfrider Vancouver, Greenpeace, Great Canadian Shoreline Clean Up, Encorp Pacific, UpGyres, Multi Materials BC, Recycling Council of BC, Greenpeace, Sea Sheperd, The Soap Dispensary, Zero Waste Market Vancouver, SPEC, Georgia Straight Alliance and BSI Bio. The Plastic Bank who feature in the film under the solutions section, City of Vancouver Councillor Reimer and leading scientist, Dr Peter Ross from Coastal Ocean Research Institute will be joining the Q&A session after the film, which will also feature expertise from some of the groups listed above. This will be an opportunity to highlight local projects and start the conversation on the calls to action in the film and how we can all become part of #awaveofchange.
Get your tickets for the Canadian Premiere on Jan 19th 2017 in Vancouver here:
We have pre-reserved theatres in Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax on Jan 24th 2017. If you want to see A Plastic Ocean and you are in these locations, click on the links below and reserve your ticket. We are also looking for collaborations across Canada so If you want to see A Plastic Ocean in your community, please contact us.
Please help us to help fill these theatres as we must meet a minimum quota for the events to happen.
For more information on Plastic Oceans Foundation Canada, contact Executive Director, Emma Langson