A group of environmentally conscious individuals got together on Earth Day to do their part to clean up the banks of the Bow River in Calgary.

The event was spearheaded by Plastic Free YYC, a group that was formed about a year ago to raise awareness of the detrimental effect of plastic waste in the world.

One of the people who came out to clean up was Melanie Dunn, who heard about the cleanup project online and got together as many people as she could to lend a hand.

“It’s Earth Day, it’s my cousin’s birthday. She’s an environmentalist and she’s inspired us to do things for the environment. I looked online and found Plastic Free YYC and this is what I found. My kids came with me, one of my kid’s friends and my husband to clean up the plastic and garbage because as we know, our whole world is getting polluted so we wanted to help clean it up.”

The group’s effort is hand-in-hand with the theme of the 48th annual Earth Day which is awareness about plastic waste.

One young activist, 10-year-old Willa Vipond, was out gathering signatures from people to help urge local governments to institute a ban on plastic bags and straws in Calgary.

“I don’t like seeing plastic flying around all over Calgary and I just wanted to help stop that from happening.”

Willa says that people can do very simple things to keep plastic garbage under control, such as remembering to bring your reusable grocery bags every time you go shopping.

Earth Day was also an opportunity for some organizations to unveil some new efficient ways of cleaning up trash and recyclables.

Matthew Nomura, a director at Vecova in northwest Calgary, says they chose Sunday to bring their new automated recyclable sorting system online. He says the service helps customers at the facility immensely.

“Rather than having to count them by hand they go through what’s called a ‘singulator’ that automatically counts it up for ourselves and sorts it into the bags. It increased the efficiency ten-fold for us.”

He says that the operation will help cut down on long lineups out the door and eliminates a barrier to employment.

“As a social enterprise, one of our philosophies is putting revenues that we have back into our main organization of Vecova to provide services to adults with cognitive disabilities. The other thing that it does is that it eliminates a barrier to employment. By not having to count, when that was a barrier, it no longer is.”

Nomura says the new system has surprised a lot of the people who have taken their recyclables there for years.

“I think it’s a bit of a shift in thinking to see a non-profit having a cutting edge technology. The feedback is great. You’re getting an accurate count, you’re getting put through the depot very quick and you’re getting to do your errands in a much timelier fashion.”

195 countries around the world take part in Earth Day.

(With files from Jordan Kanygin)