One Halloween yard display in Eastern Passage, N.S. is already spooking passersby, but not for the reasons you might expect.
Angela Riley created all the head-turning decorations by hand entirely out of trash she picked up off Nova Scotia shores.
“They say by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish – I don’t like that fact,” says Riley.
Riley, who loves Halloween, says she wanted to celebrate this year, but didn’t want to contribute to the problem by purchasing single-use decorations.
“I have two kids and I worry about their future and the state of the ocean and the amount of garbage that washes up.”
That’s where Riley came up with the idea to create her own, using the garbage she’s collected on one of her many cleanups.
“As long as I can remember I’ve always been close to the ocean and have always cleaned up,” she says.
Two months ago, she took her cleanup efforts to a whole new level, launching Scotian Shores, a local business that promises to remove one pound of trash from shorelines across Nova Scotia with each purchase of one of their locally-made products.
“It’s been an adventure for two months. We’ve been all the way up to Cape Breton, all the way down to Baxter’s Harbour and Halls Harbour,” she says.
“It’s sad, There are days where it plays on my mental health, but I just have to keep positive and keep thinking we are making a difference – we’ve collected over 2,000 lbs. in two months – plus our cleanups – we don’t add that to the total.”
It’s a passion that keeps Riley busy, because it’s estimated there are more than five trillion plastic pieces weighing over 250,000 tonnes afloat at sea.
“There are the larger plastics that we’ve heard about for decades now, where animals are eating them, they end up in our marine environments, as well we’re learning more about microplastics, so this is when the plastics break down into smaller and smaller and smaller pieces,” says Marla MacLeod, Director of Programs at the Ecology Action Centre.
“They end up in all of us and they cause impacts on human health, on wildlife and on the environment. So plastics, they don’t go away,” she added.
MacLeod applauds Riley’s creativity, admitting celebrating an environmentally-friendly holiday can be a challenge.
“There is so much around holidays where we’re just kind of stuck in this throw-away culture and the options feel really limited, so it’s sort of how do we get creative how do we push our government and corporations to take leadership and how do we break out of this cycle?” she says.
Riley has found her own way to break that cycle – using Halloween to teach about a scary reality she hopes will both instill fear and spark change.
“The main purpose from this was to start the conversation and create awareness, because a lot of people are like, ‘Wait, you got all of this from the shorelines?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah…all of it,” says Riley.