Help Catch Canada’s Most Wanted

Photo courtesy of the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup and the Vancouver Aquarium
Photo courtesy of the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup and the Vancouver Aquarium

Calling all those who love nature and the great outdoors: Did you know that far too many damaging items have been spotted in our Canadian parks, streams, lakeshores and beaches? You can help. Here, the Vancouver Aquarium and WWF’s Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, presented by Loblaw Companies Limited, outlines the top ten shoreline litter culprits:

#10 – Straws and stirrers: Both are typically made out of plastic and used only once before discarding. Stirrers are usually plastic that can withstand higher temperatures without melting. May take up to 400 years to degrade completely.

#9 – Beverage cans: Found in various forms and sizes housing anything from juices to carbonated drinks. When crushed, can cut and cause injuries to any who come into contact with it.

#8 – Plastic bottle caps: Also made out of a harder plastic that cannot be recycled along with plastic bottles. Often eaten by birds mistaking them for a food source, ironically, leading to starvation.

#7 – Plastic beverage bottles: Similar to beverage cans, these items house a variety of liquids from water to juices and carbonated drinks. Often seen attached to a plastic bottle cap. Usually discarded once beverages have been consumed.

#6 – Pieces of glass: Usually originating from broken bottles. More than 43,000 pieces were collected from shorelines last fall alone. Glass may take up to 1,000 years before it disappears from sight.

#5 – Plastic grocery bags: Very flexible, comes in various colours and sizes, if swallowed can lead to suffocation and starvation. Plastic bags photodegrade well, but stay within the environment as smaller pieces of plastic. Most often used once before discarding.

#4 – Pieces of foam: Loves static electricity and clings to many things. Originates from a variety of sources: Styrofoam food containers, floats, buoys, docks, packaging materials, etc. Extremely difficult to apprehend once loose.

#3 – Pieces of plastic: Originates from a variety of sources, including straws, stirrers, plastic bottles, plastic bottle caps, food containers, cutlery, etc. Usually discarded when original item is broken into tiny pieces.

#2 – Food wrappers: Composed of a variety of materials, plastic, foil, paper, wax, etc. Always used only once mostly for single servings before discarding.

#1 – Cigarette butts and filters: Made out of cellulose acetate, contain the chemicals filtered from cigarettes and can leach into waterways.

To coordinate your very own search efforts this fall, be sure to register with And remember: if any of these items are spotted, be sure to approach, apprehend and dispose of them responsibly.


Our History

In 1994, a small team of employees and volunteers at the Vancouver Aquarium decided to clean up a local beach in Stanley Park to help protect the city’s shorelines. They submitted the data collected during this event to the International Coastal Cleanup, a global program managed by the Ocean Conservancy. By 1997, 400 volunteers were participating in 20 sites across British Columbia as part of the Great BC Beach Cleanup.

In 2002, the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup emerged as a national program, providing all Canadians the opportunity to make a difference in their local communities. Cleanups started appearing in every province and territory, and by 2003, more than 20,000 volunteers were taking part.

Over the following years, the program continued to expand its reach and influence, aided by the support of sponsors, donors, and partners (such as WWF Canada, who became a full partner of the Shoreline Cleanup in 2010). Public support and interest in the program also grew as Canadians gradually became more aware of the harmful effects of shoreline litter on both fragile aquatic ecosystems and people.

In 2012, the Shoreline Cleanup celebrated its 19th anniversary with more than 57,000 volunteers, and expanded the spring cleanup to include school groups in Ontario and British Columbia. Today, it is recognized as one of the largest direct action conservation programs, as well as the most significant contributor to the International Coastal Cleanup in Canada.

(Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup)