Oh, Canada. The true north strong and free is not free from cigarette butts, it seems.

Every year, the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup — a conservation initiative of the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre and WWF-Canada, presented by Loblaw Companies Limited — participates in a global shoreline cleanup called the International Coastal Cleanup.

Last week, data about participating countries and their clean-up efforts was released. Canada ranked third, after the U.S. and the Philippines.

Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup

Over 54,000 Canadians participated in shoreline cleanups from coast to coast in 2014.

We beat that ranking though, when it came to picking up the most cigarette butts (the single most commonly collected item cleaned from shorelines around the world). In that category we made number 2. During the nation-wide cleanups last fall, more than 32,000 Canadians picked up 327,287 cigarette butts. Only the U.S. picked up more of them.

It’s a dubious achievement, says Susan Debreceni, outreach specialist for the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup. “Cigarette butts create an enormous environmental burden,” says Debreceni. “They are not biodegradable and contain many toxic chemicals that are dumped into our environment each year. Over the last three years, volunteers have removed more than 1 million of them from Canadian shorelines.”

Cigarette Butt Collection

Besides being an eyesore, cigarette butts have harmful effects on wildlife.

Other items we picked up from Canadian shorelines during the 2014 International Coastal Cleanup included:

  • 40,202 plastic beverage bottles and 28,886 beverage cans
  • 24,401 straws and stirrers
  • 41,484 plastic bags

To find out more about our participation in the International Coastal Cleanup, which saw an astounding 560,000 volunteers in 91 countries picking up more than 16 million pounds of trash, visit www.oceanconservancy.org.

Top 10 Items Collected as Shoreline Litter

A look at the top 10 items collected off shorelines around the world.

While the global cleanup tracks data from the fall, the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup now takes place year-round. Canadians are invited to “adopt” a shoreline: register as a site coordinator for a shoreline in their own community, and then return to clean it multiple times throughout the year.  Be part of the solution by organizing a cleanup at your local shoreline today via ShorelineCleanup.ca.

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