Diverting, reducing, and re-using plastic

Divert and Capture Plastics Picture

"The growth of plastics production during the past 70 years has outpaced that of any other manufactured material. The same properties that make plastics so versatile in innumerable applications—durability and resistance to degradation—make these materials difficult or impossible for nature to assimilate. Thus, without a well-designed and tailor-made management strategy for end-of-life plastics, humans are conducting a singular experiment on a global scale, in which billions of metric tons of material will accumulate across all major terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems on the planet."

~Professor Roland Geyer, Professor in Industrial Ecology and Pollution Prevention, and author and co-author on several reports on plastic pollution.1

Canada is certainly an example of what Professor Geyer is talking about. Domestic demand for plastic on an annual basis is estimated at 4,667 kilotonnes or more than 125 kg per capita, according to the Economic Study of the Canadian Plastic Industry, Markets and Waste that was commissioned by Environment and Climate Change Canada [Deloitte and Cheminfo Services Inc.]2. It is a challenge to find a product in Canada that doesn't have plastic somewhere in it or about it (packaging, price stickers, component pieces, the whole product, takeaway bags or containers etc.).
Unfortunately, according to the Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) report, a lot of that annual production ends up as waste, in getting-harder-to-find landfills (gets 86% of plastic waste) and 1 percent of the waste gets out into the environment - 29 kilotonnes annually! And, if we look to how that might relate to Georgian Bay as part of the Great Lakes, a study estimated that approximately 10 million kilograms of plastic enter the Great Lakes every year [Hoffman, et.al].3

Picture a continuous stream of plastic waste that can leach chemicals, break up and get smaller with weathering, sun and other forces - but is never really going to fully going away. Instead, the plastic pollution will just keep building up and building up in outdoor places we love.

Recycling in its current form is not the answer.
Only 9 percent of plastic waste is recycled with another 4% incinerated with energy capture. This is not living up to its promise. And, until it does, reduction of single or lightly used plastic is the first line of defence against plastic pollution.

The good news is that society and governments in Canada are working on making plastic more recyclable in actuality. The ECCC commissioned report estimates that there is 7.8 billion dollar opportunity through dramatic restructuring that would make secondary (recycled) plastics a viable market; especially for the biggest culprit in "linear" plastic waste - packaging - coming in at 47% of all plastic waste.

With the status quo of today, primary plastic (new production) is the goto most times as it is very cheap (especially when oil is cheap) and more available. It works with our throw-away culture of barely-used plastic packaging that may be touched for 4 seconds after purchase (e.g. clamshell plastic enclosures for a toy) or lightly-used such as a shampoo bottle.

Driving distribution of technology to divert garbage and plastics in strategic locations.

Georgian Bay Forever has researched three new technologies that we feel could help mitigate garbage and plastic pollution from our water. Map of Georgian Bay Forever Litter Trapping Devices

Why are we working with these partners and our funders and donors to do this? We know:
a)Microscopic pieces of plastic and fibres are getting into Georgian Bay through many methods including washing machines and the break down of litter, storm and wastewater over flows and more.
b) Bigger litter items are ending up on our shorelines from a lack of care or unintended littering though unsecured items blowing into the water, storm and wastewater overflows and more.
(For the story 2020 shoreline cleanups in Georgian Bay and the top litter items, click here. )

Reduction is possible, and we are aiming to DO IT and PROVE IT in several ways you will read about; this segment focuses on technology - the installment of Seabins, Gutter Bins, and Trash Traps.

What is a Seabin V5?

The Seabin ® catches an estimated 1.4 tons of floating debris per year (depending on weather and debris volumes) including microplastics down to 2 mm small.

There are about 860 bins worldwide (2019 numbers) and the combined total weight of the garbage they have captured is over 600,000 kgs. Seabins have won international awards such as: the 2018 Sustainability Award – Advance Awards Australia, the 2018 Innovation Award – GQ & Audi Men of the Year Awards, the 2018 Social Impact Award – Good Design Awards, and the 2018 Design for Society/Environment Award – European Product Design Awards. Here's why:


The V5 Seabin unit is a “trash skimmer” designed to be installed in the water of Marinas, Yacht Clubs, Ports and any water body with a calm environment and suitable services available.

  • The unit acts as a floating garbage bin skimming the surface of the water by pumping water into the device. The Seabin V5 can intercept: floating debris, macro and microplastics and even microfibres with an additional filter. By acting as a trash skimmer, the Seabin V5 is also able to clean the water from contaminated organic material (leaves, seaweed, etc…)
  • The Seabin V5 is easily equipped with oil absorbent pads able to absorb petroleum-based surface oils and detergent predominant in most marinas around the world.
  • The catch bag has a capacity of 20kg and can be changed multiple times per day, if necessary. The V5 range in glassy conditions is a 50 meter radius but in windy or tidal conditions the V5 Seabin relies on its strategic positioning for the wind and current to bring the marine litter to its location.
  • The Seabin is estimated to last in freshwater for 10 + years, with filter bag replacement approximately every three years. Cleaning the filter should be done at least once per 6-8 weeks.

  • What are the benefits for Georgian Bay?

    1. The obvious benefit is that more litter and more plastic litter will be captured and prevented from being in the aquatic environment. And any amount captured is critical. Unfortunately, there aren't enough Seabins that could be deployed to capture all the litter that is dispersed in Georgian Bay. However,
    2. A major ADDITIONAL benefit is what the collected litter can tell us. It will identify major types of litter as factual data to drive policies and education that can stop the pollution at source. The major litter items will be analyzed at least 5 times every wet and dry season for most locations.
    GLPC 3. The data will also be fed to an even larger initiative around the Great Lakes to help a broader reagion. In August 2020, GBF became a collaborator on the Great Lakes Plastic Cleanup which also deploys more of these technologies and will use the "litter" data to expose its sources and quantities for further mitigation.
    About the Great Lakes Plastic Cleanup:
    Spearheaded by Pollution Probe and the Council of the Great Lakes Region, the Great Lakes Plastic Cleanup (GLPC) is the single-largest initiative of its kind in the world, using innovative Seabin and LittaTrap™ technology to capture and remove plastics and other litter at marinas from Lake Ontario to Lake Superior and everywhere in between. Through research, outreach, and education, the GLPC is working to better understand the sources of plastic entering our lakes and waterways, as well as how we can all work together to further reduce, reuse, and recycle plastic waste.
    The work of the GLPC is made possible by a dedicated group of collaborators and supporters, including Georgian Bay Forever. Learn more at the official website here.

    What is a Gutter Bin and what does it do?

    A Gutter Bin captures pollution at a drain opening (the start of a pipe) with a special Mundus bag that makes it easy for the contents to be measured, geo-coded and imported into GIS software. This technology would be particularly useful for municipalities (and their drain openings) in order to not only capture pollution, but to be able to analyze what it is and to determine its source. More info:

    • The Mundus Bag® is designed to allow water to drain from the streets even if it becomes completely full, thereby ensuring no flooding.
    • There are different kinds of Mundus Bags, for trash and vegetative waste to plastic, sediment, hydrocarbons and heavy metals, meaning they can be customized to locations, pollution issues, and seasons.
    • The estimated life span of the bin is 25 years, with Mundus Bag replacement every 3-6 months depending on the amount and types of garbage and hydrocarbons captured. Warranty is 7 years.
    • Service interval depends upon climate, pollutant load, & infrastructure constraints.
    • No special equipment required.
    • Easily removed and cleaned by staff/volunteers.

    What are the benefits for Georgian Bay?

    Each bin can collect an estimated 210 pounds of garbage per year, more if they are located in a very high-traffic, littering area. The Original Gutter Bin has the capability of having branding on the cover grate to help build public awareness and company social responsibility. GBF believes that if these were installed, they would be the first in Canada.

    Collage pf Gutter bins for potential use in Georgian Bay

    What is a Trash Trap and what does it do?

    Akin to Gutter Bins in a way, except that these are installed at the end of the pipe (not the start), and can't be regularly cleaned and mantained by hand as they are MUCH larger devices.

    The Storm X Netting Trash Trap is engineered with reusable commercial grade netting to capture pollutants and handle powerful stormwater runoff. Trash traps are attached to the end of stormwater pipes where they collect pollution and organic materials 25mm and larger. These devices will need to be emptied approximately 3 to 4 times a year. GBF is looking forward to reporting on how plastic waste the trash traps divert.

    Litter device to stopp pollution in Georgian Bay
    Volunteer opportunity.

    If you are in the right area, and have sometime, you could help the Georgian Bay community understand what the greatest sources of its litter are by characterizing what these devices catch one or twice this summer. To see if you can help, please email us at sean.mullin@gbf.org.

    15 sec video showing the 'vacuuming' action of a Seabin at Wye Heritage Marina in Georgian Bay

    Characterizing waste form a Seabin
    If you are a high school student and can volunteer to do this, please email sean.mullin@gbf.org to learn more about how, when, and where.
    'Mining' the litter from litter trapping technology to help identify sources

    Background: Georgian Bay Forever recognized that plastics pollution, both macro and micro, were a huge problem in Georgian Bay and the Great Lakes. As noted in the above section of this page, we are actively finding placements for diversion technology like Seabins and Gutterbins, and Trash Traps.

    Seabins act as stationary surface water vacuums, sucking up debris into their bin storage units. Gutterbins are dropped into storm drains to capture debris that is washing down into the storm drain from various sources. Trash Traps are a separate unit and these are installed on the outflow pipe. These devices are not a complete solution to littering. They will capture a really important amount that volunteers can't get, but not nearly enough to capture the estimated 22 million pounds of plastic that are estimated to enter the Great Lakes every year. What adds to the value of these technologies is our ability to sort through their 'catch' and record the amounts and type of litter that is found.

    Here’s where your high school class can help

    Volunteer your class, or volunteer as an individual to help us characterize the 'catch' of these devices. You'll get hands on experience being a part of helping Georgian Bay Forever, other NGOs, and marinas and municipalities help safeguard water quality and the aquatic ecosystem in Georgian Bay.

    We need high school volunteers to help sort the 'collected' waste of the trapping technology devices for several locations 5 times a year in both wet and dry seasons.

    What will your volunteering involve? You will be carefully sorting and recording what the litter is, using a specially developed protocol. That data will be amalgamated to show us what the big litter culprits are so that policies and education can be developed to stop the polluting at source. Each "sort" might take 1-3 hours to do depending on how much litter is caught, and how fragmented and tiny the pieces are. Gratifying and worthwhile work.

    Not only will be know the litter locally, but this data will be fed into a larger Great Lakes program to stop plastic pollution. In 2020, Georgian Bay Forever joined the Great Lakes Plastic Cleanup (GLPC), a huge initiative that is also dispersing these technologies and is bringing together analysis of the litter. By joining GLPC, we bring our local knowlege and relationships to the effort, and GBF benefits from the know-how, expertise, and resources of the founding partners and other collaborators to ultimatley deliver more capture of litter and more insight. The founding partners of GLPC are Boating Ontario, the Council of the Great Lakes Region, Pollution Probe, PortsToronto and the U of T Trash Team.

    There is a tremendous amount of microplastic pollution in the water that can’t be seen with the naked eye (less than 5 mm in size). A study on three of the Great Lakes (Lake Superior, Lake Huron and Lake Erie) showed the average abundance in surface water was approximately 43,000 microplastic particles per square kilometer. In 2014, surface water was sampled in Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, and the rivers that feed into them. Recorded abundances of microplastics were between 90,000 and 6.7 million particles per square kilometer. These levels of microplastics are similar to and even exceed concentrations found in ocean gyres like the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch.”

    Of the forms of microplastics in the water, microfibers are the most prolific. They have been found in every single sample of fish that the University of Toronto’s Rochman Lab has tested from the Great Lakes (leaders in microplastic research), not to mention in studies of drinking water, beer, salt etc.

    A huge source of microfiber pollution comes from washing your clothes. One scientific study noted up to 700,000 shed in one wash (it depends on the garments etc.). About 60% of clothing worldwide is made with plastic, which won’t biodegrade – so many of these fibres go down to wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) or septics. While WWTP can catch a lot (approx. 90-99%), millions/billions still escape into our water.

    Curious about the filter?
    Go to this link to see a short video about it.

    Georgian Bay Forever is working with the University of Toronto in proving out a mitigation solution in Parry Sound. We have attached 100 filters to household washing machines. While the study is not complete, preliminary results are indicating between 3,000,000 to 6,000,000 million fibers are being diverted every day from the water of Georgian Bay (just from Parry Sound with 100 filters).We also are working with the Town of Collingwood on a separate, but similar project.

    Micofiber pollution frm washing machines

    Here’s what you can do:

    There is no perfect footprint-free solution, but working towards reduction and reduction of microfibre pollution that goes into our water is a great goal.

    1. Gold standard –purchase a washing machine filter to install on your washing machine (Filtrol 160 from Wexco or Lint Luv’R, est. $200 to 300, make sure CDN distributor if you are buying from Canada). This solution isn’t always possible for every household.

    2.In addition/other ways to help. Buy clothes for durability if you have to buy, as they are less likely to shed (most prolific shedders acrylic and polyester). Reduce frequency of washing, and strive for FULL loads with COLD water. If you need a new washer, buy a front-loader (less agitation to the clothes).

    3.Support these programs. Your donation to GBF is so critical to keep the progress going. Donate by clicking here.

    4. Support Ontario Private Member’s Bill 279, Environmental Protection Amendment Act (Microplastics Filters for Washing Machines), 2021 . Here’s how you can do it. Click here

    5. Learn more
    • Share learning - set up an online presentation by a GBF staffer with your community group in Georgian Bay. We try to accomodate as many requests as we can. If you are interested please email sean.mullin@gbf.org so that we can work out the details.
    • More information and videos about microplastics and the Parry Sound filter project and the Collingwood project. Click here.
    • A PDF download on tips to reduce microfiber plastics from getting into the environment. Click here.
    • Overview of microfibres, effects, and update on the filter projects to date. A one-hour video from a webinar June 2020. Click here.

    The Canadian domestic market for plastics is about 4,667 kilotonnes (kt) on an annual basis. In a more relatable way – that is 125 kg of plastic use (much of almost instantly discarded or lightly used ) per person per year.

    That generates a lot of plastic waste that is never really going to go away and is presently mostly ending up in harder-to-find landfills. Only 9% is recycled. Sadly, about 1% (29,000 tonnes) of it is released as plastic waste into the environment. If we continue the status quo on our plastic plastic pollution, it is estimated this amoung could increase to 40,000 tonnes by 2030.4

    Where in the environment? A Rochester Institute of Technology study estimated that 10 million kilograms of plastic enter into the Great Lakes every year. Sure – volunteers can clean up some of it – but it is mostly breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces but never really going away, and this is going on continuously.

    So what does the public think about this? An Angus Reid Poll in 2019 found that Canadians care about it a lot - Nine out of 10 respondents to a survey about the impact of plastic waste on the environment say they are concerned or very concerned about the problem. Fast forward to annus horribulus 2020, the pandemic has dampened some public enthusiasm for banning single use plastic products which may impact timing but a recent poll still shows that 87% of Canadians still care about the effects of plastic to the environment.

    Clearly so many us really care, but many may not know what we can do about it. Here are some suggestions to get started:

    1. Schedule a presentation.

    GBF is offering virtual presentations, workshops, and tips to help people reduce and reuse their plastic waste in their own households and outdoor spaces in Georgian Bay. These presentations can also include information on unencapsulated dock foam, which is littering our shores, and what dock owners and citizens can do about it. If you are interested in coordinating such an effort, or hearing if there is one scheduled that you can join, please email sean.mullin@gbf.org to work out details and timing.

    We can accomodate different age groups, and interest groups, and institutions.

    Plastic pollution workshops
    2. Start a Yellow Fish Road™ program.

    GBF wants to work with interested camp or children's groups to execute Trout Unlimited Canada's Yellow Fish Road awareness campaigns. It's a campaign that engages children to paint fish near drains to remind Canadians that what goes down these drains ends up in our freshwater, and therefore often has plastic litter components from wrappings, cigarette butts, gum, bottle caps and more.

    They will reinforce the message by distributing door-hanger pamphlets to educate nearby residents about the symbols and what they represent.

    If you are interested in coordinating such an effort, or hearing if there is one scheduled that you can join, please email sean.mullin@gbf.org to work out details and timing.

    Image from the Yellow Fish Road Campaignn
    IMage from PLasti-Free Parry Sound

    Inspired by Plastic-Free Parry Sound, volunteers to this group will help work on a number of programs and tactics to reduce plastic waste in Georgian Bay.

    Objectives and tactics could include:

    • Starting conversations with local businesses about their "lightly-used" plastic consumption, and working with them to determine ways to reduce its utilization.
    • Enlisting schools and employers to inventory their "lightly-used" plastic consumption, and working with them to determine ways to reduce its utilization.
    • Finding other groups and organizations who are open to hearing about plastic litter, use, and reduction; and working on information or materials to help set and achieve goals.

    If you would like to join Plastic-Free Georgian Bay, please email sean.mullin@gbf.org. Also, if you are part of a group that would be interested in hearing a presentation or participating in a workshop on plastic waste and reduction, please email sean.mullin@gbf.org

    To learn more about how all your efforts will fit into the greater goals of the Canadian federal and provincial governments, please keep reading.

    The Ocean Plastics Charter

    Signatories to the Ocean Plastics Charter, which includes Canada, commit to a working towards number of objectives, including but not limited to:

    • "Working with industry towards 100% reusable, recyclable, or, where viable alternatives do not exist, recoverable, plastics by 2030.
    • Working with industry towards increasing recycled content by at least 50% in plastic products where applicable by 2030.
    • Working with industry and other levels of government, to recycle and reuse at least 55% of plastic packaging by 2030 and recover 100% of all plastics by 2040.
    • Increasing domestic capacity to manage plastics as a resource, prevent their leakage into the marine environment from all sources, and enable their collection, reuse, recycling, recovery and/or environmentally-sound disposal.
    • Promoting the research, development and use of technologies to remove plastics and microplastics from waste water and sewage sludge.
    • Encouraging campaigns on marine litter in G7 countries with youth and relevant partners to raise public awareness, collect data and remove debris from coasts and shorelines globally."5

    Since then, the Canadian government has initiated a process of engaging provincial and territorial governments and stakeholders in its approach to fostering the conditions for a circular economy.

    Stakeholders can comment (link)until December 9th, 2020. GBF has captured some of its main points in subsequent sections.

    The GBF programs for Diversion 2.0, and your participation in them, will help work towards these goals.

    Less of this. More of moving from a linear plastic economy to a circular plastic economy

    Image of landfill_Plastic waste
    There is much to consider and execute in this transition according the Canadian government that is broadly characterized towards "greater prevention, collection, innovation and value recovery of plastic waste," while simultaneously working towards, "The development and scaling up of new forms of plastic and new technologies [that] provides opportunities to incentivize and support improved recovery of resources from products and packaging at the end of their useful life."6 Federal, provincial and territorial governments agreed to the basic principals of a Canada-wide strategy on zero plastic waste in November 2018. They are collaborating around:

    • Extended producer responsibility for plastics
    • National performance requirements and standards for plastics, including targets and timelines for increasing recycled content
    • Assessing infrastructure needs for improved plastic lifecycle management6

    What is Extended Producer Responsibility?

    The Government of Canada will work with provinces and territories to develop consistent, national targets, standards and regulations to make companies that manufacture plastic products or sell items with plastic packaging responsible for collecting and recycling them.

    Provinces have the lead. But the federal government has the responsibility to smooth out cumbersome differences between jurisdictions. Transparency by companies will be key, although they are given freedom to meet the targets as they see fit.

    Together - they will need to decide:
    • "common material categories and product definitions
    • performance standards to guide reuse and recycling programs
    • options to encourage innovation and reduce costs
    • standard monitoring and verification approaches"7

    Stewardship Ontario describes Extended Producer Responsibility(EPR) as "the comprehensive responsibility that Ontario producers, importers and brand owners have to reduce the environmental impact of their products and packaging. Under the EPR model, this responsibility, or Product Stewardship, extends across the entire product management lifecycle, encompassing waste reduction, recovery, recycling and reuse. You’ll also hear it called cradle-to-grave product management."8

    Who is Stewardship Ontario?
    It is a "non-profit organization funded and governed by the industries that are the brand owners, first importers or franchisors of the products and packaging materials managed under our recycling programs." They currently operate the Blue Box curbside recycling program for printed paper and packaging and the Orange Drop recycling and safe disposal program for hazardous or special waste. As the plastic waste operations transform - they will conclude operations/their mandate and be finishing Orange Drop in June 2021 and the Blue Box by Decemeber 31, 2025.<8/sup>

    Ontario’s Draft Regulations around the Blue Box Program

    Draft regulations were posted October 19,2020, by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks as part of the Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act. Public comment is open until December 3rd, 2020 here.

    These regulations are intended to move from a kind of shared funding system between municipalities and industry to full extended producer responsibility, where producers manage blue box material on their own. The objective is to incentivize producers to be more cognizant of the costs of the end-of-life of their products, as well as relieving municipalities of about 135 million dollars of costs annually.

    The draft regulations require producers to operate a "common collection system to collect blue box recycling from every eligible source in Ontario and manage recycling in a safe and environmentally sound manner. Producers would be allowed to engage producer responsibility organizations (PROs) to help them achieve their regulated outcomes."9 There are some exemptions.

    Some detracting comments this author has seen include concerns that the goals aren't high enough, particularly on plastic and that enforcement and penalties may be too soft.10 Other comments note that consumers will pay for it anyways within the costs of goods (i.e. your grocery bill might go up by $40 to $50 a month 11). It is also probable that those costs will go down as more is invested into recyclability, and plastics used in packaging are streamlined. That would be a win-win - way less plastic waste, and getting to a point where it doesn't impact the price of goods. Either way, we can't keep pretending the current recycling regime is working and ignore the costs to the environment. As noted, public comment is open until December 3rd here.

    Here are the targets outlined in the draft legislation:


    As these regulations get worked through we will be watching closely. Regardless, it certainly shows that individuals also need to reduce plastic waste, as not all of it is planned to be recovered (Ontario plans 40 to 60% still going to landfill currently). And, this doesn't even really address textiles, and "shedding" microfibre waste from plastic in clothes like polyester as an example.

    Eliminating certain sources

    From the Government of Canada's perspective, this is necessary on certain evlauated plastic products and can be achieved through regualtory and non-regulatory measures.

    Here is what has been done so far on single/lightly-used plastic.

    On October 7th, 2020, Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson announced a list of items that will be banned as part of the Federal Government's prohibition on "harmful single-use plastics", planning to formally enter the list into Schedule 1 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. The ban would come into effect by the end of 2021.

    The list includes single use items defined as "designed to be thrown away after being used only once":
      Checkout bags
      Stir sticks
      Beverage six-pack rings
      Food packaging made from plastics that are difficult to recycle

    The government is in the process of engaging provincial and territorial governments and stakeholders in its approach to this list and its regulatory execution. Stakeholders can comment (link)until December 9th, 2020..

    The process for getting to this list is explained in their discussion paper "A proposed integrated management approach to plastic products to prevent waste and pollution" .

    To make the list, the major parameters include being "environmentally problematic" and difficult to recycle or hampering wastewater treatment. Exemptions can include 'essential' items with no understandable alternatives. For example, a CTV article notes that the "federal government says the ban will not impact access to PPE, or other plastics used in medical facilities."

    The pandemic has dampened some public enthusiasm for banning single use plastic products which may impact timing but a recent poll still shows that 87% of Canadians still care about the effects of plastic to the environment.

    Some think the announcement is too minimal and therefore perpetuates the myth of recycling. The federal government noted it is working to address that by holding big companies responsible for their plastic production, requiring them to play a part in collecting and recycling their materials. It's targeting at least 50 per cent recycled content in plastic products by 2030.

    Beyond single-use items the goverment also talks about "short-lived disposables" products or components, which GBF has referred to as lightly-used (pens, toobrushes, cigarette butts, cotton swabs) but these have not been added to the list to date.

    A Georgian Bay initiative to eliminate Polystyrene Foam pollution from unencapsualted docks

    In 2019, volunteer shoreline cleanups supported by Georgian Bay Forever found that polystyrene foam was by far the largest source of litter. And of that polystyrene foam, most of it was coming from holding up floating docks.

    If it is not encapsulated, polystyrene foam breaks up and fragments with wind weathering, and animals. These big or small fragments can breakdown more into tinier and tinier pices but never really go away. Eventually, these fragmented pieces if not recovered from all over shorelines by volunteers, can break down into microplastics and risk being ingested by aquatic life.

    There has been much progress in working towards mitigating this pollution, including a Private Member's Bill 228 introduced by MPP Miller in November 2020 to ban this use (unencapsulated foam used for docks and buoys), which became law in May 2021. It will come into force in about 2 years.

  • To read this bill, visit this link. GBF thinks this falls in line with the bigger government objectives on reducing plastic waste in the environment.

  • To read GBF's support of this Bill to the Standing Committee on Private Members Bills, please watch this short 7 minute video this link.
  • More work to be done. GBF under this Diversion 2.0 program will work to educate dock owners, shoreline property owners, and anyone who loves the Bay about this form of pollution, and alternates that can be used to float your dock.
    Polystyrene foam Pictures_littering Gerogain Bay

    The role of science

    A logical path of understanding a pollution problem involves determining the scale of it (sometimes referred to as fate), the sources of the pollution, and its effects on ecosystem (animal and plant) health, and human health.

    It is not an easy task to manage and assess risk on macroplastics (bigger than 5 mm), microplastics (less than 5 mm), and nanoplastics (less than 1 μm or less than 100 nanonmeters in size). There are so many complexities esepcially with microplastics including: the speed at which we are polluting, the different forms of microplastics (eg. spheres, fregments, foam, beads, pellet, film and the most common fibers), the potential permutations of chemicals in microplastics and their varying possible eco-toxicity from the plastics original polymer type (polypropylene, polyethylne, polyvinylcholoride, acyrlic, etc etc) and the combinations of chemical additives and/or what gets absorbed/adsorbed from the environment by microplastics or in combination with when consumed (eg. UV stabilizers, flame retardants, plasticizers, mercury etc).

    Studies are ramping up to close these gaps and certainly in the meantime, the precautionary principle in Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 certainly should seem to apply in terms of the need for action on plastic waste.
    What is the Precautionary principle?
    It is one of the guiding principles of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. It states that "where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation." 12

    Shoreline Litter

    The government has noted that there is enough evidence that macro and microplastic is everywhere and has multiple sources, and that the macro form of plastics pollution is proven to cause "harm" to animals and their habitat. The government is supporting more research into microplastics around effects on animals, the environment, and human health.

    While we wait for more, a growing body of research shows that the effects of microplastics on animal life are far-reaching. Researchers have investigated the impacts of microplastics on gene expression, individual cells, survival and reproduction. Mounting evidence shows the negative impacts can include decreased feeding and growth, hormone system disruption, decreased fertility, as well as other lethal and sub-lethal effects. While some effects are due to ingestion stress (physical blockage), there are also risks to ecosystems in the Great Lakes from the chemicals in plastic used in production or the potential absorption of chemicals into microplastics from the surrounding environment (e.g. flame retardants like PBDEs).

    More and more research shows animals and humans are consuming microplastics. One example is from the Rochman Lab research, which found microplastics in the gut of every sample of fish from Lakes Huron and Ontario. It’s not just fish. Researchers from the University of Minnesota and the State University of New York at Fredonia tested Great Lakes beer, globally sourced tap water, and commercial sea salt to determine if they were contaminated with microfibres. They found that 81% of the tap water samples contained microfibres, as did 100% of the beer and salt samples tested! Furthermore, a University of Victoria 2019 study estimated that humans consume between 39,000 to 52,000 particles annually, not including airborne particles.

    The Government of Canada has granted more than $2 million dollars to research into the effects of plastics on humans and the environment. Check out a description of the 16 different reserach programs here .

    Other scientists are conducting Life Cycle assessments (LCA) of the environmental impacts of products and their potential replacements during their entire lifespan to avoid the replacments being worse for the environment than the orginal product.
      "Replacing one thing with another requires consideration", notes Tamara Galloway, Professor of Ecotoxicology at the University of Exeter. This is quite a complex process, and really needs to be looked at regionally as things like transport make a big difference in carbon emissions. For example, she works with the ExeMPLaR project in the South West of England which is looking at a "comprehensive, systematic and coordinated approach.. to create a regional circular plastics economy". The EU has a target of getting to 35% petrochemcial and 65% biopolymers from about 99% and 1%. A bioploymer is biodegradable, made from more sutainable biological sources, and non-petrol. Just looking at the impact of say plastic bottles made of polyethelene or polyproplene involves many assessments not only of those plastic and carbon pollution footprints but also their potential replacements, whether they are bottles made with glass, one-use bottles made with bioplastics, or rigid multi-use cups made from recycled plastics. Each of these gets looked at from a total footprint perspective - life cycle modelling, human health evidence synthesis, and ecotoxicity testing. Their research isn't complete on it, but it looks like glass unless it is at 50% weight is not a better choice environmentally in that region. The other two options have some very positive aspects for sure especially it would seem for the cup that gets reused verses thousands of single cups, but they are still weighing ecotoxicity on the recycled plastic cup option and other factors on the bioplastic option (even though it is non-petrol and bioplastics have low toxicity).13 This is very complex and important work.

    Georgian Bay Forever is working on a study to prove that filters affixed to household washing machines, can make a significant difference in reducing micoplastic pollution into the water. Learn more here.

    Yes there are challenging barriers to work through to get to zero waste

      1. No contest right now. Primary plastics (new production)outcompete secondary production (recycled); the latter suffering comparitively due to its small quanitities, inconsistent availability and expensive 'labour-intensive' methods to get to quality plastic from old plastic. The primary market is currently much more reliable, an important factor for businesses.
      2. The low rates of collection contribute the above point. 25% of plastics are collected, but only a small portion of that is usable becasue of 'contamination' and inadequate technology (i.e. sorting etc.).
      3. Recovery is poor, a contributor the previous points. Landfill is cheaper which is astonishing. The volume on recovery that exists is not high, and is worsened by further reductions as noted in point 2. More investment is needed in innovatins and technologies.
      4. The cost and cleanup of plastic pollution is mostly born by the public: local governments, volunteers, and NGOs who can't get it all. A more centralized and systemic way of tackling this huge problem at its source could be more efficient.
      5. Food and Health safety. There needs to be caution around reused plastic in certain circumstances.
      6. Energy efficiency and consumer safety need to be considered.

    Getting to Solutions: End of Life responsibility – improve the value recovery of plastic products and packaging

    There are plans in work to overcome barriers and move towards Canada's target of 50% recycled content in plastic products by 2030. Canada is using the Canadian Environmental Protection Act to require recycled content in plastic products and packaging but has not adopted a final approach yet.

    Federal, provincial and territorial leaders are working on many aspects of reducing plastic waste, including improving recycling collection and rates, establishing producer pay models, and the federal government is banning certain single-use plastic items. Essentially, working out how to foster the conditions for a circular economy by stimulating demand for plastic waste re-use, streamlining the number of plastic materials (and/or establishing performance standards), and creating conditions for investments in collection and recovery.

    The public has a critical role in learning about plastic waste reduction and supporting mitigation strategies and changing many of our throw-away behaviours. We hope you will join us on one or more of the programs of Diversion 2.0 by using technology to trap litter, characterize litter to create important data points to act on, and learn, share and encourage others to join the fight to reduce plastic waste.

    Picture of Litter and waste
    Thank you to these funders who have made this program possible

    The views expressed herein are solely those of Georgian Bay Forever.

    The Weston Family Foundation
    The Great Lakes Local Action Fund
    The Township of The Archipelago
    The Town of Collingwood
    The Township of Georgian Bay
    Georgian Bay Forever donors

    We also want to thank these valuable partners:
    The Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority
    Blue Mountain Watershed Trust
    The University of Toronto Trash Team

    References and sources.

    GBF would like to give thanks and acknowledge these refernces and sources. We try our best to get it right, but if we made a mistake, please contact us at info@gbf.org with the url of this page and your issue.

    1Professor Roland Geyer from this website page: https://www.rolandgeyer.com/plastics
    2Deloitte and Cheminfo Services Inc.,"Economic Study of the Canadian Plastic Industry, Markets and Waste."Cat. No.: En4-366/1-2019E-PDFISBN: 978-0-660-30447-2. © Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, 2019. http://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2019/eccc/En4-366-1-2019-eng.pdf
    3Matthew J. Hoffman, Eric Hittinger, "Inventory and transport of plastic debris in the Laurentian Great Lakes" Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 115, Issues 1–2, 2017,Pages 273-281, ISSN 0025-326X, (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025326X1630981X)https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2016.11.061..
    4The Government of Canada invests in research on plastic pollution in our environment. Nov13,2020. Cision. Retrieved in Nov 2020 at https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/the-government-of-canada-invests-in-research-on-plastic-pollution-in-our-environment-892278856.html#:~:text=Plastic%20pollution%20has%20been%20shown%20to%20harm%20animals,and%20intestinal%20systems%2C%20hindered%20feeding%2C%20and%20possible%20starvation.
    5Ocean Plastics Charter. On the Government of Canada website. Retrived in Nov 2020 at https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/managing-reducing-waste/international-commitments/ocean-plastics-charter.html
    6A proposed integrated management approach to plastic products: discussion paper. Government of Canada wesbite. Retrieved in Nov 2020 at https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/canadian-environmental-protection-act-registry/plastics-proposed-integrated-management-approach.html#toc19
    7A proposed integrated management approach to plastic products: discussion paper. Government of Canada wesbite. Retrieved in Nov 2020 at https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/canadian-environmental-protection-act-registry/plastics-proposed-integrated-management-approach.html#toc19
    8What is Extended Producer Responsibility? FROm the Stewardship Ontario website. Retrived in Nov 2020 from https://stewardshipontario.ca/what-is-extended-producer-responsibility/#:~:text=Extended%20Producer%20Responsibility%20%28EPR%29%20describes%20the%20comprehensive%20responsibility,the%20environmental%20impact%20of%20their%20products%20and%20packaging.
    9Ontario Developing a Stronger, More Effective Blue Box Program. From the Ontario Provincial website. Retrieved in Nov 2020 at https://news.ontario.ca/en/release/58866/ontario-developing-a-stronger-more-effective-blue-box-program
    10Action Alert: Clean up Ontario’s Blue Box program! Retrieved in Nov 2020 from https://act.environmentaldefence.ca/page/71228/action/1?ea.tracking.id=eblast&ea.url.id=5028815
    11Dunn, Trevor. Ontario's new blue box plan will recycle more, but it'll cost you more as well, experts say. Oct 20,2020. CBC News website. Retroved in Nov 2020 at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ontario-s-new-blue-box-plan-will-recycle-more-but-it-ll-cost-you-more-as-well-experts-say-1.5768577
    12Guide to understanding the Canadian Environmental Protection Act: chapter 3. Government of Canada website. Retrived Nov 2020 at https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/canadian-environmental-protection-act-registry/publications/guide-to-understanding/chapter-3.html 13Guide to understanding the Canadian Environmental Protection Act: chapter 3. Government of Canada website. Retrived Nov 2020 at https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/canadian-environmental-protection-act-registry/publications/guide-to-understanding/chapter-3.html

    A portion of a video from the Microplastics Health Effects Webinar Series, by the Southern California Coastal Water Reserach Project. Tamara Galloway's presentation starts about 1 hour in. She is from the University of Exeter. https://vimeo.com/sccwrp/review/480010525/56ec962965 Sources and refernces used in section "Eliminating certian sources"
    https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/marketplace-poll-on-plastics-1.5084301, https://gowlingwlg.com/en/insights-resources/articles/2020/federal-government-list-toxic-single-use-plastic/?utm_source=vuture&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=vuture/
    https://www.ctvnews.ca/climate-and-environment/what-is-and-is-not-included-in-canada-s-ban-on-single-use-plastics-1.5136387, https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/news/2020/10/canada-one-step-closer-to-zero-plastic-waste-by-2030.html

    Sources used in microplastics/fibres/filters tips
    Ballent, Anika; Corcoran, Patricia L.; Madden, Odile; Helm, Paul A.; Longstaffe, Fred J. “Sources and Sinks of Microplastics in Canadian Lake Ontario Nearshore, Tributary and Beach Sediments.” Western Science. 2016. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2016.06.037
    Cox, Kieran D.; Covernton, Garth A.; Davies, Hailey L.; Dower John F.; Juanes, Francis; Dudas, Sarah E. “Human Consumption of Microplastics” Environ. Sci. Technol. 2019. Publication Date: June 5, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.9b01517. Copyright © 2019 American Chemical Society
    Erdle, Lisa. https://georgianbayforever.org/flipbook/winter2018/6/
    Eriksen, Marcus; Mason,Sherri; Wilson, Stiv; Box, Caroyln; Zellers, Ann; Edwards, William; Farley, Hannah; Amato, Stephen. “Microplastic pollution in the surface waters of the Laurentian Great Lakes.” ScienceDirect. Published online Oct. 25, 2013. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2013.10.007
    Hartline, Niko L.; Bruce , Nicholas J.; Karba , Stephanie N.; Ruff, Elizabeth O.; Sonar , Shreya U., and Patricia A. Holden. “Microfiber Masses Recovered from Conventional Machine Washing of New or Aged Garments.” September 30, 2016. 2016 American Chemical Society. DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.6b03045. Environ. Sci. Technol. 2016, 50, 11532−11538Kosuth
    Mary; Mason, Sherri A.; Wattenberg, Elizabeth V., “Anthropogenic contamination of tap water, beer, and sea salt.” PLOS.org. Apr.11, 2018. Retrieved from http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0194970
    McIlwraith, Hayley K.; Lin, Jack; Erdle, Lisa M.; Mallos, Nicholas; Diamond, Miriam L.; Rochman, C.M “Capturing microfibers – marketed technologies reduce microfiber emissions from washing machines”, Marine Pollution Bulletin Volume 139, February 2019, retrieved from ScienceDirect at https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025326X18308634?dgcid=author
    Napper, Imogen E. and Thompson, Richard C. “Release of synthetic microplastic plastic fibres from domestic washing machines: Effects of fabric type and washing conditions” , Marine Pollution Bulletin ,Volume 112, Issues 1–2, 15 November 2016, retrieved from ScienceDirect at https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025326X16307639 Other sources not named above