Ocean Legacy Foundation

B.J. Oudman (contributor for MyVanCity)

James Middleton considers himself a mariner, but he really should be called a hero. Co-Founder of Ocean Legacy Foundation along with his wife, Chloe Dubois, he has coordinated the clean-up of thousands of pounds of plastic debris from the west coast waters over the past eleven years. What began as volunteer work, the company incorporated in 2013 as a federal non-profit.

The spark for James to do what he does was the 2011 Fukushima tsunami. The pattern of the ocean currents deposited a huge blob of debris across the Pacific from Japan. When it hit the coastline of northern California and Oregon, it split into two, one portion drifting north, the other back into the gyre. “I was working, reclaiming timber for shipyards. I was shocked by the amount of garbage I saw in the water”, explains James. He started to collect the garbage and just held on to it initially while he figured out what to do. Lush Cosmetics donated a warehouse that functioned as a collection site until Ocean Legacy received its first grant three years ago from Innovation Canada. The grant allowed them to purchase extruding equipment to pelletize the plastic into polypropanol and polyethylene at a facility they rent in Steveston through a partnership with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

James partnered with Full Circle Plastics, a company already making plastic-based products, supplying them with plenty of raw materials for items such as benches, planters, and other plastic lumber items.Other companies also are using Legacy Plastics: Origami Paddlers builds paddle boards, LUSH makes product pots, and the list is growing. “What we do is more than recycle. We create tangible effects of what garbage is in the ocean.” He adds, “Now the majority of what we process is discarded marine gear sent directly to the one of our four recycling centre depots from the fishing companies themselves, a process that is much more sustainable.”

In 2015, he led a mega ocean clean-up expedition. Sixty days, six people and a 65-foot catch boat traveled west and south from Vancouver. In addition to collecting garbage, they tested 158 samples of ocean water, with the ultimate goal to protect marine life. “Chloe is the brains behind the operation. She has a masters in global policy and left yesterday for a scientific expedition to Antarctica. Her inspiration is the albatross. She had seen a video of the birds eating and then regurgitating ocean plastics to their young and was really upset”, James explains.

The work of Ocean Legacy is fascinating and complex. James only touched on the surface of their work; as I grew more interested the more he spoke, he shared that they had developed an Educational Curriculum called EPIC Academy as one part of their organizational mission. Their EPIC mission has four pillars – E (education and research), P (policy and advocacy), I ( infrastructure development), and C (clean up and restoration). If you are interested in learning more about their mission or ocean clean-up in general, visit their website at oceanlegacy.ca

B.J. Oudman (contributor for MyVanCity)

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