The Case of Invisible Litter

Clue.

A murder mystery game designed for 3-6 players, where you attempt to determine who murdered the game’s victim, Dr. Black.

Players need to guess where the crime took place, which weapon was used, and guess who committed the crime: Miss Scarlet, Professor Plum, Mrs. Peacock, Reverend Mr. Green, Colonel Mustard, and Mrs. White.

Was it Miss Scarlet in the boardroom with the revolver?

Or Mrs. Peacock in the library with the lead pipe?

Alexander Cassidy played a game of Clue himself on Lake Simcoe to discover how different types of plastics are entering the Holland River.

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Plastic litter is problematic for several reasons:

  1. It can enter aquatic food chains, causing digestive problems that poison and kill local fish, birds, turtles, and frogs.
  2. It is a long – lasting eyesore to visitors in waterside parks and recreation areas.
  3. Plastiscs can make swimming unsafe.
  4. Plastics damages local fishery populations.

The Holland River is close to Alex’s heart, as it is close to his hometown, Newmarket.

As part of the Waste Management course at Trent University, Alex conducted a litter inventory of all plastic debris found in several sections of riverbank to better understand how the litter was getting there in the first place!!!!

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He organized what he found into categories that were used in similar studies conducted on the Great Lakes Beaches. He wanted to explore the magnitude of plastic contamination and identify possible solutions.

He picked up litter on nearly 25 acres of land and paced out 10 metres to collect an accurate sample size.  

He told us it took him FOREVER to count it all!

Through his research, Alex realized that there was a vast amount of litter that he couldn’t clean up with his own hands – a type of invisible litter called “Microplastics” which result from weathered down plastic that enters waterway – and so the plot thickened!

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Microplastics are harmful to the digestive tracts of aquatic animals that mistake them for food.

So how was the litter getting into the lake??? Was it plastic bottles in the river with their deadly chemicals? Or was it micro-plastic beads in the drains choking the fish?

Alex found that popular fishing spots were home to high amounts of plastics that were polluting the water and poisoning the fish population.

Often no garbage disposal bins were available in these areas.

As Alex dove deeper into his project, he experienced firsthand the importance of litter-clean ups and public outreach.

Alex recommends that garbage/recycling bins should be strategically placed in popular fishing areas to reduce litter and that areas should re-establish and re-plant the buffer zones along the shores to ensure litter does not seep down from urban land areas.

He used his research findings from the river study to inspire a comment to the International Joint Commission to help inform recommendations for plastics in the Great Lakes.

He reached out to the Windfall Ecology Centre to ask further questions about issues with stormwater runoff and microbeads in health products.

Alex explains that his professor, John Jackson is “good at getting people out there to conduct their research and to make a difference. I was encouraged to take initiative and design my own project to contribute useful research to my hometown. The unique hands-on approach offered at Trent has helped me prepare for my career in a number of ways. There are many opportunities to work one-on-one with professors, as well as a lot of encouragement to be involved with the community and make a difference along with getting an education. This is only one of many times I have found myself becoming involved with the community through my educational journey at Trent.”

Thanks for playing the game of Clue for the environment…

And we hope he continues to play so he can continue to solve the mystery of plastic litter pollution and help find ways to reduce the negative impacts!!

 

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