Even though Toronto is located thousands of miles from the nearest ocean, the problem begins with us. Rivers, lakes, streams, storm drains and beaches are all connected, so litter at your shoreline can be transported much further away from where it began.
On June 10, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada celebrated World Ocean’s Day with a Shoreline Cleanup! Aquarium staff were joined by over 60 community volunteers to help clean the Lake Ontario shoreline at the Humber Marshes. Together, they collected over 170 pounds of recycling and waste in just two hours! The top offenders collected were cigarette butts, plastic pieces (less than 2.5 cm) and plastic bottle caps.
Twice a year, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada participates in a shoreline cleanup to help clean Lake Ontario at the mouth of the Humber River. This area, known as the Humber Marshes, is one of the few remaining river mouth marshes in Toronto. As part of Toronto’s largest watershed, the extensive marshes provide an important breeding habitat for ducks, turtles and fish, and are a significant corridor for migratory song birds and monarch butterflies. More than 60 species of fish live in the river including such sport fish as trout, pike and salmon.
The trash and recycling are collected by the City of Toronto, whereas the cigarette butts are sent to a recycling program called TerraCycle. Once collected in this program, the butts and packaging are separated by composition and melted into hard plastic that can be remolded to make new recycled industrial products, such as plastic pallets. The ash and tobacco are separated out and composted in a specialized process.
As we journey into the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains, Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies celebrated World Oceans Day by providing news articles on plastic pollution in the world’s oceans as well as articles on companies that have removed plastic straws/disposable utensils from their facilities or companies. They also made pool noodle crabs (a fan favorite from their 2017 World Oceans Day event!), played shark bowling, provided coloring sheets about various ocean animals and showcased the cycle of plastic pollution through talks and a wall display. Another fun new item for this year was their bottle cap art. In true Ripley’s Believe It or Not fashion, they made a shark out of bottle caps and used that opportunity to educate guests about what they can do at home to help our world’s oceans and the animals that live there.
Making our way to the big blue, Ripley’s Aquarium of Myrtle Beach celebrated World Oceans Day with a party on the plaza and a good ole’ fashion beach cleanup! Our goal is always to motivate and inspire environmentally-friendly behaviors within our community. Being located in a high volume tourist destination, we have many opportunities to educate guests on how to properly dispose of their litter. When we celebrated World Oceans Day on Saturday, June 9th, we were competing with the Carolina Country Music Fest just steps from the ocean. Our participants had a great time engaging these concert-goers and letting them know why we were out there and what we were looking to accomplish. Some people even got out of line to help us clean the beach! Similar to our sister aquarium in Toronto, the top offenders collected were cigarette butts and plastic bottle caps. Anyone who participated in our beach clean-up received $1 admission to the Aquarium that day under the promotion “One World, One Ocean, One Dollar”. At the Aquarium, we held activities on the plaza which included games, a shark tooth hunt, shark tooth necklace making and a DJ! In the words of one of our 5 year old beach clean-up participants, “it’s a lot of work but if we work together, we can clean it all up!”.
Let’s make each trip around the sun one in which we can be proud. Happy World Ocean Day 2018.
Photos: Ripley Aquariums