What’s that sound coming from the shoreline? Did you hear that? That crinkling sound… is it a c-c-c-candy wrapper? What’s that doing on the shoreline? It doesn’t belong there. Oh no, now I hear something else, is it a b-b-b-beverage can? This shoreline must be haunted.

With the longest coastline in the world, and many waterways in between, there are plenty of shorelines in Canada for litter to haunt. In 2016, Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup volunteers removed 126,432 kg of trash from 3,289 km of shoreline. This included spooky culprits like cigarette butts, food wrappers, plastic bottles, straws, plastic bags, and many other plastic single-use items (download the 2016 annual report for even more hair raising statistics, if you dare).

Snack and candy wrappers are a common fright you’ll encounter on the shoreline. Photo credit: Nancy Debreceni

It gets even scarier. When these items are left behind on a shoreline, they can cause real problems for wildlife. The main concerns are entanglement and ingestion.

  • Entanglement: Litter such as plastic strapping bands or six pack rings can entangle wildlife. Once entangled, animals may be unable to swim or find food and they may slowly starve.
  • Ingestion: Scientists are finding a growing number of freshwater and marine animals that have eaten litter by accident. Ingesting litter can affect an animal’s ability to eat, breathe, and move, leading to starvation, choking or even fatal poisoning.

A robin has chosen some nearby plastic as nesting material, which could put young at risk of entanglement or ingestion. Photo credit: Susan Debreceni

What can you do to help these haunted shorelines?

  • Clean a shoreline: There’s still time to help us catch these scary shoreline litter monsters. Register to lead or join a cleanup today.
  • Refuse: No tricks with your treats. Make smart purchases by saying no to excess packaging and single-use plastic items.
  • Reduce: Be a wise witch or warlock and reduce waste with reusable items like glass water bottles, metal straws and cloth bags.
  • Reuse: Get crafty and reinvent items for new uses. A pillow case is great for trick-or-treating. Buy second hand costumes or decorations to give them an even longer life.
  • Recycle: Look for candy in packaging you can recycle, such as cardboard.

Shoreline Cleanup volunteers keep a close eye on shoreline litter monsters by keeping track of how many they find during a cleanup.

 The next time you’re enjoying a beautiful shoreline, keep an eye out for shoreline litter but don’t let it scare you. There is a solution and you can be part of it by joining the amazing national network of volunteers participating in the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup each and every year.

Aquablog post by Susan Debreceni, Outreach Specialist for Ocean Wise’s Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup. 

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, presented by Loblaw Companies Limited, is one of the largest direct action conservation programs in Canada. A conservation initiative of the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre and WWF-Canada, the Shoreline Cleanup aims to promote understanding of shoreline litter issues by engaging Canadians to rehabilitate shoreline areas through cleanups. Find out more at www.shorelinecleanup.ca


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