Tens of thousands of volunteers from coast to coast fanned out along our shores Saturday to clean up our waterways for the 21st annual Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup.
The event has come a long way since it was first organized by the Vancouver Aquarium in 1994 where a group of employees and volunteers decided to clean up a local beach in Stanley Park. In 2002, the cleanup emerged as a national program. The number of supporters has also grown over the years. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) became a partner of the environmental initiative in 2010.
According to the WWF, the shoreline cleanup is the biggest direct action environmental program in the country. Six cities from Vancouver to St. John’s, Newfoundland are now taking part in the conservation initiative.
Last year, 27,659 people signed up in British Columbia, removing more than 86 thousand pounds of litter.
The top offenders of litter are cigarette butts, plastic water bottles, straws and containers. Over 310 thousand cigarette butts were picked up along Canadian beaches and waterways last fall. There are strange items that also make it to the list.
Environmentalists are warning the public to be mindful of litter everywhere. Throwing junk on the beach is only one way our waterways get polluted. Most of the debris collected on the shoreline has been blown off of land.
“We all contribute to garbage on the beach if we’re dropping garbage anywhere,” says Jo Ann Walton of the WWF Canada, “Trash can travel long distances. Plastic bags can travel hundreds of miles to get to water sources where they’re then ingested by aquatic animals and birds.”
Many animals can become entangled in the debris, or they may ingest it, which can either result in a choking death or a false feeling of fullness that leads to malnutrition.
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