1000th balloon in the Grand Bend area

Monarch butterfly perched atop a cigarette butt (Photo by Lynn Tremain)

Monarch butterfly perched atop a cigarette butt (Photo by Lynn Tremain)

December 16, 2022 | by Lynn Tremain

My name is Lynn Tremain. I live in Grand Bend, Ontario, on the shore of beautiful Lake Huron. I have become a full-fledged plastic/garbage picker.

How did this happen?

I am not proud to admit that plastic grocery store bags, acquired from online orders and curbside pick ups during COVID-19, started me on this path. After years of using eco-friendly bags, I abhorred the number of plastic bags I was accumulating. So, as a great COVID-safe activity and a way to use the bags, I decided to commit to a daily pickup of at least one bag of garbage at the beach, for the month of April 2021. This was the perfect way to celebrate Earth Month and express my gratitude for the years of joy I’ve experienced living so close to Lake Huron.

The original plan of picking for one month soon fell apart as I got into the “garbage groove.” Once I started on a regular routine, it became impossible to stop or to “unsee” garbage. Today, after 20 months, I have collected almost 700 bags and over 1,000 helium balloons.

Let’s talk about those helium balloons.

Deflated foil balloons spread out on porch (Photo by Lynn Tremain)

Deflated foil balloons spread out on porch (Photo by Lynn Tremain)

I remain shocked at the extent of the needless helium balloon pollution in our environment. Most have been found along the shore of Pinery Provincial Park, a distance of approximately 12 kilometres. Think about that; only 12 kilometres of the total 6,157-kilometre Lake Huron shoreline. It is distressing to think how many more balloons are out there.

Helium balloons and their attached ribbons pose a huge environmental threat to animals, birds and fish, due to ingestion and/or entanglement. Helium itself is a finite resource with far more important uses in medicine, science and space exploration.

The balloons have become an obvious focal point for me; however, there is so much else to be found along the shore. At first glance, apart from recently generated human garbage, such as beer cans, food wrappers and containers, it appears that beach garbage/plastic isn’t a big problem here.

Many ribbons were found on the beach (Photo by Lynn Tremain)

Many ribbons were found on the beach (Photo by Lynn Tremain)

Start looking closely…

On any given day, my finds include:

  • plastic cutlery
  • bags
  • cigarette butts
  • lighters
  • vaping supplies
  • bottle caps
  • plastic water and other drink containers
  • sunglasses
  • socks
  • underwear
  • shoes
  • sandals
  • Big O tiles
  • erosion control fabric
  • rope
  • ribbons and latex balloons
  • fishing lures
  • netting
  • bait boxes
  • pieces of broken plastic beach chairs
  • nurdles
  • microplastics and Styrofoam

The list could go on and on.

We have a huge problem with plastic pollution and other types of garbage.

What can you do?

I invite you to become a garbage picker, wherever you are. You will find it meditative. You will be embarking on an interesting and challenging garbage adventure. You will know that you are making a small contribution to address a serious problem.

Every “litter” bit helps!

Warning! You may become so devoted to picking, you will be unable to stop.

Aside from picking litter whenever and wherever possible, reducing the source also helps. Here are alternative ways to celebration any occasion without the use of balloons.

Check out my other interesting finds during garbage cleanup at my Instagram page: @grancleansthebeach

Lynn Tremain

About the Author

Lynn Tremain volunteers her time along Grand Bend and other natural areas, helping to clean up debris and caring for nature.

Read more about Lynn Tremain.

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