Fredericton is a beautiful city with a rich history and a vibrant community. But like many cities, it has a litter problem. Every year, litter ends up on the banks of our beautiful river, the Saint John River. We also refer to it as the Wolastoq River, which in Maliseet means “beautiful river”. We noticed that there were a lot of plastic bags and other trash along the banks, and we had a vision of making sure that the garbage did not end up in our water.
We wanted to inform our classmates of how many years it can take for plastic to decompose and also to inform them of the harmful chemicals it releases into the soil and water. Litter also creates microplastics which are very harmful to our watersheds and wildlife. Plastic is also harmful to animals if consumed, so we wanted to interview a veterinary to hear from an expert. We sent a few emails and heard back from a veterinary technician, Taylor, at the Oromocto Animal Hospital. We had a Teams Meeting with her in front of our class of 27 students. We asked her several questions: Have you had any animals affected negatively by plastic? Do you think animals are impacted by litter around bodies of water? What are some common health problems that pets can experience due to exposure to litter and plastic? We learned how harmful plastic is to animals. She talked about xylitol and why it is dangerous for pets. Xylitol is an ingredient that’s in candy, and it’s toxic to dogs if they eat it. After her interview, we put up posters around our informing people about the effects of plastic. Then on May 8th 2023, we planned a cleanup along the banks of the Wolastoq River. We divided our classes into teams, and we made a pie chart. We gave each group a piece of paper with the chart to keep track of the kind of litter they were picking up. We had picked up a total of 835 pieces of litter; the main pieces of litter our class found were: 83 food wrappers, 40 beverage containers, 189 cigarette butts, 136 plastic bags, only 10 disposable masks and another 238 pieces of litter that did not fit into the categories.
Reflection & Celebration
It was great to get outside and to help clean up along our riverbank. The water was high, so we were not allowed to go near the water’s edge. We did notice that there was still a lot of plastic close to the riverbanks that we could not reach. However, we knew that we made a difference by the amount of garbage bags we collected. Our classmates enjoyed helping out.