As a society, we have become increasingly aware of the impact human activity has on our oceans. In particular, there has been a large pushback against single-use plastics through government policies banning their use in supermarkets, restaurants, and other businesses. There are many organizations that help to undo some of the damage people have done to the environment by participating in ocean conservation and shoreline cleanups.
A driving force that supplies young Canadians with the opportunity to participate in ocean and waterway conservation is called Ocean Wise. Born out of Vancouver Aquarium over 60 years ago, Ocean Wise is a global conservation organization on a mission to protect and restore the world’s oceans. Focused on education, research and direct-action conservation, Ocean Wise equips and inspires youth, citizens, businesses and governments to take action through initiatives like Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, Ocean Wise Seafood, the Marine Mammal Rescue program and Be Plastic Wise.
Ocean Bridge is the Canadian initiative of this organization, supporting more than 160 young Canadians to form four national cohorts- Pacific, Great Lakes, St. Lawrence, and Atlantic. One of the many young Canadians Ocean Bridge supports is Memorial University student Carter McNelly, an Ocean Bridge Ambassador and founder of Memorial University’s OceanUS (the Ocean Sciences Undergrad Society). Carter is an avid participant and leader in environmental conservation and cleanup. Though when organizing a shoreline cleanup of Quidi Vidi lake, he ran into an unexpected problem.
“About 2 years ago, I was in my first year at MUN at the time and I had just founded OceanUS,” says Carter, “In April, we went out to Quidi Vidi Lake to do a cleanup there and we’re caught off guard by the amount of needles that we came across. We had no way of cleaning these needles up and so they just had to sit there in high-traffic areas until the city could come by and pick them up.”
Discarded needles present a new challenge for cleaners, as these needles can easily cause injury when the only equipment available are plastic bags and gloves. However, Memorial University student Carter McNelly would not leave those needles to be picked up by the city. Carter developed needle cleanup kits to help people remove these dangerous materials.
With assistance from Ocean Bridge, Carter developed a specialized needle cleanup kit. The kits provide puncture-proof gloves, a trash grabber to pick up the needles from a distance, a sharp box to store the needles, and instructions of proper cleanup.
“My goal by having these kits available is so that both individuals and organizations (both at MUN and outside the university) will hopefully never be caught in the situation that we were, and have to overlook those needles in their cleanups.”
For anyone interested in ocean, or general environmental clean up, Carter has just two words, “Don’t wait! You don’t need to wait for an large, organized clean up.” Just by picking up some piece of trash while outside can make a difference. “If we all pickup one piece of litter when we’re outside, just think of how huge of an impact we can have together!”
Carter recommends that anyone interested in picking up a kit can fill out a google form at bit.ly/stjcleanupkit, after which Carter will get in contact with anyone who fills out the form to set up a pick up time.