Who you gonna call? No-one.


What do you do when there’s just too much debris on the beach to deal with on your own? What do you do when something washes up that is just too big and heavy to move?  This Styrofoam  – or polystyrene to my British readers – washed onto our local beach today. It had broken off a floating dock that, along with a buoy, a boat and a floating device made out of two old tires, turned up in the bay last night. The dock is made of foam and concrete, and by this afternoon it had wedged itself onto the rocks at one end of the beach.


Clearly, the longer the dock stays there, the more it’s going to break up. The solution is obvious: move it out of the water and up the beach past the high tide line until it can be disposed of. Except that on five sides the dock is concrete – which is what you can see in the photo. (The Styrofoam is underneath.) Which means it’s heavy. Too heavy for me, and too heavy for a friendly Australian bloke who tried to help. Too heavy for two geezers with bad backs who were passing by.

On the other side of the breakwater you can see in the first photo is the Victoria Harbour. So I tried the Harbour Authority. Their maintenance people didn’t want to get involved because the Harbour Authority only has jurisdiction up to the breakwater and if they got hurt … well you understand. Beaches are a federal, (or central government,) concern. The very helpful receptionist in the Harbour Authority office tried Transport Canada, but they weren’t interested.

So I tried the Pacific Pilotage Authority, since what they do is steer ships in and out of the Island’s rather treacherous waters and the dock might pose a hazard to shipping – and their office is right by the beach. The dispatcher was very kind, and lent me his phone. I phoned the City of Victoria but they will only move items that are above the high-tide line. The Coastguard only deal with pollution if it’s oil and the number they gave to report a shipping hazard was no longer in service. The dispatcher’s advice? call Uncle, give up. He’s seen it all before, welcome to modern society, where nobody wants to take responsibility for anything..

So, in the capital of Vancouver Island, a city powered by tourism and government on an island which will be one of the first ports of call for the debris from the Japanese tsunami, there is not one authority that wants to keep our waters safe and our beaches clean from plastic pollution. There is no one number to call.

So what to do? I went back to picking up the polystyrene, and later my husband joined me.


Together we picked up quite a lot of the stuff….


….though with polystyrene, there’s always as much left behind. And by tomorrow there may be a whole new bright white wrack line on the beach. So when I got home I called the local TV channel. If they are interested in running the story, they’ll call me tomorrow. Which is the most positive response I had all day.




7 thoughts on “Who you gonna call? No-one.

  1. Hello, just became aware of your blog and your clean-up work- via a facebook entry by Eef, protest against litter. I have added your blog web site address to my blog under Other litter pickers.

  2. Could you saw it up and move it in pieces rather than pick up all those pieces? What a shame nobody is willing to help but well done for taking the initiative. You could maybe use a wire saw if you don’t have a big saw or even a strong sharp knife or a couple of garden forks back to back to split it into chunks? I took some polystyrene off a beach here in Orkney today but nothing like the size of that bit. Good luck.

    • I would love to – it would take more strength than I have – and I have a sneaky feeling that doing so would be considered littering itself. It’s now back out in the water …..

  3. I meant to avoid picking up lots of little bits as it breaks up further, Well done for collecting those little bits, it’s such mucky stuff and full of nasty styrene chemical that leaches out.

  4. I have faced similar conundrums before with litter too large or heavy to personally pick up. It’s always disappointing to leave it behind. I’m doing what I can to try to make people aware of this issue through art. I’m working at one location on a river in the center of the U.S. Good luck to you. Found you as well through Bernie’s excellent links.

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