Can you guess the 12 most frequently littered items on Canada’s freshwater and marine shorelines?

Vancouver-based non-profit organization Ocean Wise, together with the World Wildlife Fund, have released their Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup 2021 Impact Report, providing valuable information to help achieve healthier water ecosystems.

The conservation partnership recently presented their annual findings in a report to be shared with governments, researchers and the public. One of the most significant findings of the report is the 2021 Dirty Dozen list: the 12 most-found items on Canada’s freshwater and marine shorelines.

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup is a collective effort by dedicated volunteers who come together for the health of their shorelines, and Ocean Wise reports that volunteer efforts have been expanding to new communities and shorelines across Canada.

According to the 2021 report, 19,508 participants came together to complete 1,998 cleanups during the year, more than doubling those of last year. These cleanups achieved 31,522 kilograms of trash being removed from 2,219 kilometres of shoreline.

“From humble beginnings in 1994, the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup has grown to become one of the country’s most effective direct-action programs," says Lasse Gustavsson, president and CEO of Ocean Wise. “By empowering our volunteers to lead cleanups in their community, we are making a significant impact on the litter leaking into our rivers, streams and ocean. Thanks to the comprehensive data records collected, we’ve meaningfully affected municipal waste bylaws, bans on unnecessary single-use plastic and the choices of our business partners.

In a list known as the Dirty Dozen, Ocean Wise has identified the 12 most frequently littered items on Canada’s freshwater and marine shorelines, to raise awareness about the types of shoreline litter and to help develop solutions to minimize its impact on the environment.

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup’s 2021 Dirty Dozen, including quantities, is as follows:

  1. Cigarette butts: 146,614
  2. Plastic pieces: 72,913
  3. Styrofoam pieces: 44,592
  4. Food wrappers: 43,201
  5. Bottle caps: 33,576
  6. Paper: 28,987
  7. Beverage cans: 17,800
  8. Plastic bags: 16,971
  9. Straws: 12,480
  10. Plastic bottles: 12,398
  11. Coffee cups and lids: 12,145
  12. PPE (i.e., gloves, masks): 11,450

The first step in tackling the plastic pollution crisis is awareness, and every piece of information and knowledge helps, which is why this 2021 Impact Report is significant. From there, ocean lovers coming together to take action are able to make the positive impact that the planet desperately needs. Let’s all continue to do our part to minimize shoreline litter and other environmental threats in any way that we can.

Those wishing to join Ocean Wise in stopping plastics from entering the oceans and restoring shorelines are encouraged to take action by: leading a shoreline cleanup; joining a shoreline cleanup; or becoming a shoreline champion with work.