The proportion of take-out and single food packaging dumped on Canadian shorelines nearly doubled last year.

This is according to the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup’s annual ‘Dirty Dozen’ report.

Each year, data collected from the cleanup reveals the ‘Dirty Dozen,’ a list of the most-found litter across Canada.

The change may be one of the many implications of COVID-19, including more people ordering restaurant takeaway and eating more individually packaged foods.

“We were startled to see that single-use food and beverage litter increased from 15.3 percent of all litter in 2019 to 26.6 per cent in 2020,” says Julia Wakeling, outreach specialist for Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, a conservation partnership of Ocean Wise and World Wildlife Fund Canada. 

Cigarette butts top the list. Rounding out the dirty dozen’s top five were tiny plastic or foam, food wrappers, paper, and bottle caps. Plastic bottles were seventh among the most discarded items.

Also of note, for the first time in Shoreline Cleanup’s 27-year history, volunteers reported finding masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) on their cleanups. 

“We didn’t have a category on our data cards last year to formally track the amount of PPE-related litter volunteers were finding, but we have added one for 2021,” adds Wakeling. 

“This year’s results will be very interesting.”

You can link to the report here.