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article imageCigarette butts biggest polluter of Canadian ocean shorelines

By Carolyn E. Price     Mar 11, 2009 in Environment
According to a report released on Tuesday by the Washington, D.C.-based Ocean Conservancy, the main source of debris on our Canadian shorelines is (drum roll please) ... cigarette butts. Smokers unite and clean up your act.
As a follow-up to Sandy Shand's Opinion piece posted earlier today entitled "Time For Us to Clean Up Garbage", I thought I would highlight the report's findings from a Canadian perspective.
The report is entitled, A Rising Tide of Ocean Debris and What We Can Do About It, and it was compiled by the Ocean Conservancy (pdf version found here). Every year, the Conservancy puts together what it calls a "global snapshot of marine debris". On the third Saturday of September last year (dubbed International Coastal Clean Up day), volunteers all over the world spent the day gathering up garbage to put together a global inventory of sorts, itemizing what kind of crap is being dumped onto our ocean shorelines.
The key findings of the report were that ocean debris is an ever increasing problem worldwide and the top three major pieces of garbage retrieved by the volunteers were cigarette butts, plastic bags and food wrappers/containers. Obviously, all three of these come from careless behavior of human beings: tossing that smoke out the window or grinding it out in the sand and leaving it there; leaving that Big Gulp/Roll Up The Rim/Grande Latte cup behind without putting it in the garbage/recycling bin where it belongs; or dropping that Snicker's wrapping casually as you stroll along the beach's boardwalk. Things that all of us are guilty of at one time or another.
From a Canadian perspective, the number one item collected on our shores was cigarette butts, with a total of 323,706 collected along Canada's coastlines. Food containers were the next highest item collected, bucking the international trend of plastic bags that was second highest item collected worldwide.
Overall, 865,284 pieces of trash weighing approximately 315,425 pounds were collected by 34,320 Canadian volunteers, covering approximately 1,740 miles of ocean shoreline. The aforementioned cigarette butt was the number one piece of trash but some interesting numbers from the number one producer of ocean pollution in Canada, Recreational Activity, were: 106,911 pieces of food wrappers/containers, 113,656 pieces of plastic/glass/metal pop/water containers combined; 27,000 stirrers or straws; almost 11,000 pull tabs; and 65,749 caps or lids.
Vikki Spruill, president and CEO of Ocean Conservancy, is quoted as saying that the solution to shoreline pollution is totally within humankind's reach.
Reduce, reuse, recycle. As simple as that is, it's clearly not caught on yet, or we wouldn't see these numbers year after year.
More about Ocean conservancy, Canada cigarettes, Garbage