Nova Scotia

Doll heads, fridge and bowling ball picked up in McNabs Island cleanup

The long-running beach cleanup yielded no shortage of unique items after a winter of nasty storms.

200 volunteers turn out for annual beach cleanup at provincial park and national historic site

Eight-year-old Sebastian Stoops was one of 200 volunteers who came from Halifax and Eastern Passage to clean up McNabs Island on Sunday afternoon. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

The annual cleanup of McNabs Island in Halifax Harbour on Sunday yielded no shortage of unique items, from a fridge and stove, to deck chairs, doll heads, an aquarium and even a bowling ball.

The island, which is a provincial park and national historic site only accessible by boat, is a magnet for garbage because it's situated at the mouth of Halifax harbour, according to Cathy McCarthy, president of Friends of McNabs Island Society.

"McNabs collects it all. The tides wash all the garbage in from somewhere else," McCarthy said.

Volunteers picked up a wide array of items on McNabs Island. The island is known for being a magnet for trash because of its location at the mouth of Halifax harbour. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

"We find a lot of city garbage, things like Tim Hortons coffee cups, plastic bags and Styrofoam of all kinds."

Garbage also washes in from the ocean, and has come from as far away as Europe, she said.

A fridge and stove were among some of the larger items found at this year's cleanup. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

Because of that, McCarthy said, every year a new batch of litter arrives on the island that needs to be cleaned up. 

"We had some pretty nasty storms this past winter, which caused a lot of garbage to get washed in and then trapped on the island," she said.

Four hundred bags of garbage were collected on McNabs Island, along with large items including lobster traps. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

To date, volunteers have picked up 13,500 bags of trash.

Friends of McNabs Island, a non-profit run by volunteers, spends several thousand dollars every year to charter boats to the island for the cleanup.

"Certainly for the young people that come here, none of these students are going to be littering. Because they see first-hand what happens to it," McCarthy said.

Cathy McCarthy unravels rope from a piece of wood on McNabs Island. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

Fourteen-year-old Mitchell Owens has been taking part for the last four years, and said in the past, he's found everything from a mattress to car parts.

"It makes me feel good to come help the environment," he said.

"I think people need to come here because this shouldn't be happening. We shouldn't be punishing the environment because we want certain things in our life. If we're the ones to put it out there, we should be the ones to pick it up."

A volunteer holds a bag of garbage collected on McNabs Island. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

Eight-year-old Sebastian Stoops said he managed to find a disc from an angle grinder.

"A lot of garbage, like wrappers, bottles, and some of my friends found needles," he said.

"I want to clean up the beaches so the animals won't eat it and die. And I want to clean up the environment."


Marina von Stackelberg is a senior reporter at CBC's Parliamentary Bureau in Ottawa. She previously worked as a reporter and host in Winnipeg, with earlier stints in Halifax and Sudbury. Her stories regularly appear across the country on CBC Radio and CBC News Network. Connect with her by email at or on social media @CBCMarina.