Shoreline cleanups in Georgian Bay

How to Clean Up Your Shorelines with the #GBFTrashTeam

As a part of the Divert and Capture: The Fight to Keep Microplastics Out of Our Water program, Georgian Bay Forever is needs you to do shoreline cleanups around Georgian Bay in effort to keep our shorelines plastic free.

This page provides information about our cleanups, and how you can volunteer for one today!

Please note: We have suggested how to do cleanups with social/physical distancing in mind (March 26th). It is however incumbent on each individual to monitor their own behaviour and volunteering activities to adhere to the latest Public Health Advisories as it relates to COVID-19 (Ontario government link, Canadian government link, and your local municipality).

Click on these links below to get started:

Safety First and What to do
Science Matters – Tally Your Trash
Planning for Disposal of Waste and Recyclables


Important Background Info


Georgian Bay is home to some of Canada’s most diverse shorelines. These shorelines are incredibly ecologically productive – supporting plants, microorganisms, insects, amphibians, birds, mammals, and fish. They are an important transitional ecosystem that many aquatic and terrestrial organisms rely on. We also benefit from shorelines for various recreational purposes, and some of us are lucky to live on a shoreline.

Plastic Pollution
The shorelines of Georgian Bay are granite bedrock exposed by the glaciers at the end of the last ice age, about 11,000 years ago. Today, several areas of some 2000 kilometers of shoreline around Georgian Bay are lessened because of something that is useful to us humans for a matter of minutes; single-use plastic products.

According to the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanups, single-use plastic comprise more than a third of all plastic waste and are among the top twelve most collected items during shoreline cleanups. Not only does trash pose a threat to our shoreline ecosystems, if the trash washes into the lake, it can break down into smaller pieces of plastic and enter the food web. That’s why GBF wants to work with you to help our shorelines, lakes, aquatic animals and beyond through shoreline cleanups  around Georgian Bay.

And Georgian Bay communities got great results in 2019! 107 volunteers picked up an astonishing 1369 pounds of trash. Check out what each community did, and the top 12 litter items in this GBF 2019 shoreline clean-up report.

Learn about how to reduce your plastic use and volunteer/do for a shoreline clean up by contacting Brooke at

Safety First

Shoreline Safety And How To Do Cleanups


The world has changed since last summer. Going out in groups of volunteers, at the time of this writing (March 26th,, 2020), is not safe for public health. At GBF, we have altered our volunteer instructions for shoreline cleanups this summer to match public policy on social distancing to mitigate coronavirus spread (as of March 26, 2020). Please note: Checking with Public Health officials and adhering to any updates and changes since March 26th as it applies to volunteering is your responsibility (Ontario government link, Canadian government link, and your local municipality).

1. Household family teams.
Go with at least one other person (1 supervising adult mandatory, and not more than 5 household family members) that you have self-isolated with in your household for a walk on your own property, your street, or on a permissible shoreline near you. This should be at a place where you will not break social/physical–distancing rules (i.e. breaking guidelines by being in a crowd with other people and other guidelines).

2. Other Preparations and safety:
Bring proper safety gear: good shoes, sunscreen and insect repellent, gloves, hat, proper weather attire, and personal flotation device if you’re near water (i.e. always practice water safety when around water). REMEMBER to bring a pail or trash bag.

– Optional – Bring a cell phone and take pictures to share later.

– A tarp is handy to have for sorting at the end of the cleanup.

– Assess the area before starting, look and avoid any possible hazards or dangers. Assess the weather before starting. DO not go out in thunder and lightning for example.

– Always tell someone where you are going in case of an emergency.

– DO NOT pick up any dangerous items without proper equipment (sharp objects for example). Do not pick up any toxic materials. If you come across something of toxic concern, leave it, and note its location to the proper authorities to manage.

Review our safe operating procedures document as well as our safety poster. See these links:

Cleanup Safe Operating Procedures
Cleanup Safety Poster

3. Get Started cleaning the shorelines

– Pick up as much litter on the shoreline as you can safely accomplish.

– Ensuring your gloves are still on, take the collected litter and dump it out (on a tarp for example) so that you can count it and record your findings on the Tally Sheet under “Science Matters – Tally Your Trash” below.

– If you have nothing to weigh the garbage with (very understandable), make a good guess or leave blank. If you happen to have a luggage scale, we have found that best to measure the weight of the garbage.

– See next steps, Tally your Trash and Disposal.

Science Matters – Tally Your Trash

Be a Citizen Scientist– Send Us Your Data!

Plastic Foam
While cleaning up your shoreline, please use our trash tally sheets to help us gain data on what we find on our shorelines; we can use the information to work with partners to stop the litter at source.  For example, of the top 12 litter items collected in 2019, big and tiny pieces of foam were so abundant that they could not be counted, but were estimated at over 5000 pieces (more info at: 2019 shoreline clean-up report). A committee was set up in the fall to staunch a major part of this pollution in future dock construction. The foam pollution material is formally named unencapsulated expanded or extruded polystyrene (open dock foam). To get more information on dock foam and alternates for docks, contact

That’s a great example of why your volunteering, and your provision of data is so critical. It helps stakeholders around the bay take action together on stopping pollution at source, so the pollution doesn’t so vastly outnumber critical volunteers like yourself trying to clean it up. And, it’s important to keep doing it.

What to do?

Download the GBF Trash Tally sheet and send your completed sheet to at to contribute to the database. It’s valuable! Other options: Mail it to Georgian Bay Forever. Att: Brooke Harrison. P.O. Box 75347, Toronto, ON M4M 1B3.  or call us at (905) 880-4945 x 6, and we’ll take your info over the phone.

Trash Tally Picture


Planning for Disposal of Waste and Recyclables

After recording the tallies (thank you citizen scientists!), sort the garbage into what goes into landfill and what goes into recycling according to the municipality you are in. Dispose of these items with your own waste.

– Wash your hands thoroughly (at least 20 seconds!)

– If you haven’t sent your tally sheet in, email it to . Other options:  Mail it to Georgian Bay Forever. Att: Brooke Harrison. P.O. Box 75347, Toronto, ON M4M 1B3 or call us at (905) 880-4945 x 6, and we’ll take your info over the phone.

Helping facilitate shoreline cleanups is part of the Georgian Bay Forever Divert and Capture program.

Georgian Bay Forever Divert and Capture Thanks Screen shot 2020