One of our models is a real role model and no doubt that’s because she has an excellent role model in her life: her Mom. Olivia Mullen’s Mom started a family tradition in 2013 and it’s still going strong today. The Mullen family does a yearly beach cleanup every spring. Beach cleanups are important because they remove harmful debris from ecologically sensitive areas, they prevent trash from being washed out to sea again, and they contribute to a healthy tourism industry.
The local Credit Union began a community clean-up in 2013 and this is how the tradition began. The Credit Union supplied all the necessary supplies and arranged to have the trash picked up at various beaches. After a few years the municipality took over the event and ran it for awhile, but when they discontinued the cleanups, the Mullens kept on going. The first few years of doing it solo were labour intensive because they had to drag all the garbage from the beach, load it onto a borrowed pickup truck and drive it to a place on the main road where the regular garbage collection would pick it up.
The first year, they limited themselves to one truckload, but each year they increased the number of truckloads they picked up. Olivia’s Mom, Donna, picks up garbage throughout the year, bags it, and piles it where it is sheltered from high winds and tides. They do their yearly beach sweep in the spring because the winter brings a lot of garbage onshore and since the shore grasses are still dead, it’s easier to find and collect the garbage. Later it will be hidden and entangled in the tall beach grasses. The biggest challenge is removing lobster traps because they are embedded deeply in the sand.
Friends and extended family members have joined the Mullens in this annual tradition and they now have access to a tractor. This means that the lobster traps and ropes trapped beneath the sand can be removed more easily. The work has also been made easier because the municipality now brings a trailer down to the coastline so they don’t have to unload it all at another location for pickup. The municipality also began weighing the garbage the Mullens pick up. It has never been less than 2000 pounds from a stretch of beach about 500 metres long. This year they picked up 2600 pounds of trash. As for what type of garbage they find, it’s mostly lobster gear, ropes and single-use plastic. The most interesting item was a wooden chair with the words “TIME OUT CHAIR” printed on the seat. Olivia says she looks forward to the beach cleanup every year, but she is always amazed and disappointed to see that the amount of garbage has not decreased over the years.