Annual fireworks show results in tonnes of garbage being strewn on Vancouver's beaches
It’s that time of the year again when tens of thousands of Vancouverites descend upon the West End to enjoy Canada’s largest free family fun event. The Celebration of Light fireworks in English Bay has become a must see for both tourists and locals alike and over the last 20 years it has become a huge success – with a couple of notable exceptions.
When it comes to turning a profit, the fireworks festival has yet to find a good business model that will allow it to secure long-term financial stability. As a result, Vancouverites collectively hold their breath every year and hope that another top-tier sponsor will come in and save the day. The fireworks were actually canceled once, only to be restarted again after a major sponsor was secured.
As for the environmental side of the Celebration of Light...well it really seems to be lacking a good strategy. No, I’m not talking about the environmental impact of blowing off hundreds of pounds of explosives each night. I’m referring to the tonnes of garbage that is left behind by fireworks patrons every night after the show. Images of thousands of plastic cups, plates and refuse strewn all over Vancouver’s primary beaches must clearly put a dent in Mayor Gregor Robertson’s efforts at branding his city as the greenest in the world.
How is it the Mayor regularly boasts about Vancouver being the greenest city in the world, yet an event like the Celebration of Light instantly transforms English Bay into our own version of the Cache Creek landfill ? I can’t help but think how images of garbage-strewn beaches transmitted around the world on YouTube can be extremely damaging to Vancouver’s long-standing brand as a clean and green city. If so, why is this Mayor and the city doing so little about it? Other than sending in the troops to clean up early in the morning.
Juxtapose this against the 2010 Olympics where you barely saw any trash on the ground during the 17 days of the Games. This is despite the fact there were hundreds of thousands of people pouring into the downtown every day. I believe you can credit this to a coordinated trash pick-up plan and the influx of hundreds of temporary clear garbage bags attached to light standards throughout the core area. In other words, where there is a will, there’s a way to keep Vancouver clean.
If Gregor Robertson and his Greenest City Action Team are serious about wanting to make a real environmental impact, why are they not doing more to reduce the amount of garbage that will appear on our beaches tomorrow morning? Here are a few suggestions GCAT may want to consider implementing after they’ve finished advocating for more curb-side vegetable gardens and backyard chickens:
- In 2011 they should implement a city-wide media campaign weeks in advance of the fireworks advising fireworks patrons that “green” cities don’t turn their clean beaches into sewer piles overnight. Public awareness is key to successfully reducing the amount of garbage left behind. During the 2007 labour dispute the public were advised that garbage workers weren’t going to be there to pick up after them and it helped to dramatically reduce the amount of refuse left on the beaches.
- The engineering department should immediately re-install the hundreds of temporary garbage and recycling receptacles close to and on the beach. If people have to walk more than about 25 feet to throw away their garbage, it's more likely to end up on the street and our beaches.
- Similar to the "blue coats" during the Olympics, Vancouver should recruit hundreds of “green” volunteers to inform the public each night that they should take home what they brought with them. Perhaps the city should start by targeting their volunteer recruitment efforts with the hundreds of cycling advocates who also claim they are concerned about the environment. Instead of participating in Critical Mass one month they could consider becoming a Greenest City volunteer. These volunteers could also engage citizens on the need to bring with them recyclable cups, plates etc...to the beach rather than disposable items made of plastic. The amount of carbon heavy single-use plastic containers left in the trash bins and in the public realm is simply shocking in a city that claims to be so enviro-friendly.
- City by-law officers, firefighters and other city employees should be patrolling the beaches (similar to during the Olympics) in their bright "green" vests watching out for people violating the litter law. Given the severity of the problem every night, clearly some increased enforcement is in order.
Implementing these concepts would be a good first step in cleaning up our beaches and maintaining our green image, but they don’t replace common sense and courtesy. If Vancouver wants to be known as a green city, a lot more needs to be done by this council and our community at large to reduce the amount of garbage we leave behind in the West End each night of the fireworks. As for now, I’ll be watching the newscasts tomorrow morning to see just how green and into recycling Metro Vancouverites really are.
- Post by Daniel