Halifax group gathers thousands of pounds of plastic, one beach at a time
A team of volunteers gathered to collect plastics from Tufts Cove this Sunday
January 18, 2021, 6:21 pm ASTLast Updated: January 19, 2021, 10:46 am
Angela Riley spent her Sunday doing what she loves: working with a team of volunteers to clean a local beach.
Riley, the founder of Scotian Shores, hosted and led the cleanup at Tufts Cove in Dartmouth, providing bags and gloves for volunteers. Over 25 people attended the cleanup, which is more than Riley expected. She said she was thrilled by the turnout.
“I’m always happy if there’s more than 10 people,” she said.
When Riley, a mom of two young boys, lost her job due to the pandemic, she decided it was time to make her passion for the environment a full-time job. She started Scotian Shores this summer, although she had been doing beach cleanups on her own for years.
“I organized my first official cleanup at the beginning of August and we had over 80 people come,” she said. “It was kind of insane.”
Soon after that, Riley realized she needed a way to support these events, and now makes and sells jewelry on her website to help support these cleanups.
Another reason Riley is so passionate about cleaning up Nova Scotia’s beaches is because of her kids. After she had her second son, who is now two years old, Riley says it hit her how bad of a situation our environment is in.
“When I started thinking about ‘oh my gosh, what kind of environment are my kids going to have to live with?’ that’s when I went through a really bad depression about our environment,” she said.
Riley hosts most of her cleanups at kid-friendly beaches because she wants to inspire the next generation.
Her last cleanup, at the Eastern Passage Waste Water Treatment Plant, collected more than 2,000 pounds of plastic.
When starting Scotian Shores, Riley said she leaned into her expertise.
“I’m not a scientist, so when it comes to the climate change, I’m not able to help,” she said.
But she said that this is what inspired her to start.
“I believe everybody plays a part in creating a better future. So, my part is going out and actually doing cleanups,” she said. “I’m really good at organizing events, social media and building teams.”
Riley confirmed that the team collected more than a 1,400 pounds of plastic on Sunday. She said they collected hundreds of tampon applicators and needles.
“By the end of it, just shovelling it out because there were so many needles down there,” she said. “My mom brought over a 10-pound bag of just tampon applicators.”
Ellie Smith, who attended the cleanup, runs a call centre for a health-care company, but always takes one day out of her week to do volunteer work.
“I’m lucky,” she said. “I only have to work four days a week, and I did that on purpose so I would have time to help other people.”
Smith frequents the cove in the summer and said that she always sees people dumping. She says that the accessibility of this cove to the road has led to a buildup of plastics on the beach, as it’s easy to pull up a truck and dump garbage.
“It’s pretty awful,” she said.
While Scotian Shores has collected thousands of pounds of plastic off beaches all over HRM, Riley says that connection is her main goal with these cleanups. Her mission is to “help people realize that they’re not alone in worrying about this.”
Even though Riley has held four big cleanups and countless smaller ones over the last few months, she is still surprised at the response by the community.
“It’s not a fun job picking up garbage and hauling lobster traps,” she said. “It’s hard and it’s dirty, but people have been really responsive.”
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