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New ocean plastic centre to help keep valley beaches clean

A new recycling depot has opened in Cumberland to deal with ocean plastics and other waste washing up on Comox Valley beaches.

The depot is in partnership with Comox Strathcona Waste Management and Ocean Legacy Foundation and is located on Bevan Road in Cumberland. It will collect lost or discarded fishing gear, marine debris and equipment including some netting and rope, polystyrene (Styrofoam), hard plastic and some buoys.

The company’s services coordinator Stephanie Valdal says recycling in B.C. is set up for residential single-use packaging and not for oceanic waste.

Regional depot coordinator Alys Hoyland says the main difference between residential and marine-grade plastics is the amount of grime found on the equipment.

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“When you’ve got marine-grade plastics, so whether that be legacy equipment from aquaculture or fishing, the plastic tends to be a little bit dirtier, a little bit degraded, you’ll often find there’s barnacles growing all over it,” said Hoyland.

“Ocean Legacy Foundation was established to bridge that gap and pioneer a way that we can deal with this material that we’ve got hundreds of tons of stuff washing up on our shorelines every year.”

Any residents and collection groups can do beach debris drop-offs at the depot for it to be cleaned and then sent to a processing centre in Delta. Residents can apply for the tipping fee waiver in Cumberland or on the waste management website.

“We do hand out tipping fee waivers so that material is not applicable to a fee at this time,” said Valdal. “So, residents who want to do beach debris clean-ups can collect the material, apply for a tipping fee waiver, sort the material on-site, and then deliver it to the depot.”

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Valdal says beach waste is a large problem in their area, particularly on Quadra Island where residents are already cleaning up with volunteer programs.

Hoyland says once the materials are cleaned and sorted, they are sent off to be processed and can be reused for some beautiful water crafts.

“The rope is one of my favourite things to be processed because the end product that we have is these beautiful, teal-coloured pellets,” she said. “And then a partnership that Ocean Legacy has, which is really exciting, is with a kayak company and what they’re doing is using those pellets to build their kayaks.”

“I think there’s something really beautiful about that, about creating something that’s going to last a long time, it’s going to give the owner a lot of joy going out into the ocean and having a positive experience.”

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Other products like Lush brand cosmetic containers are made from recycled plastic, according to Valdal.

The facility is one of three on the coast, with others located in Ucluelet and in Powell River.

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