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Plastics, foam number one on 2017 'Dirty Dozen' list

Last Updated Feb 24, 2018 at 12:50 pm PST

(Courtesy Ocean Wise)

Plastics and foam top the Dirty Dozen list of common items found on Canadian shorelines last year

Volunteers picked up hundreds of thousands of cigarette butts -which came in second- from Canadian shorelines in 2017

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup’s annual “Dirty Dozen” list of the most common types of trash found near shores across the country is out, with plastics and foam on top.

“The types of plastics and foam that we’re picking up are usually broken down from bigger items, like water bottles or even children’s toys,” Rachel Schoeler with the conservation program says. “Or if you can picture a big piece of white foam that was maybe in a box as packaging, those pieces of foam can break up into really small, tiny balls.”

These pieces are then easily mistaken by wildlife as food, and Schoeler says there’s definitely a concern of ingestion. “Our goal here is, of course, to raise awareness, and build some education around what we’re finding on our shorelines, and to inspire a solution.”

She says everyone needs to care because every community has a shoreline. “A shoreline really is anywhere land connects to water, which can include lakes and streams, rivers, even storm drains… We’re all connected by our waterways.”

According to a release and report from Ocean Wise –a partner in the cleanup program, more than 330,000 tiny pieces of plastic and foam were picked up by volunteers last year. “Last year alone more than 58,000 people removed 88,700 kilograms of garbage that otherwise would have entered the water, impacting wildlife and ecosystems,” the report reads.

Other items that make up the list of 12 include cigarette butts at 244,734, plastic bottles at 50,285, and other single-use plastic items like bags, packaging, and straws. “So it really brings it back home to the ways in which, as an individual, we can play a role in the amount of trash on our shorelines,” Schoeler says.

Full Dirty Dozen list of 2017

  1. Tiny Plastic and Foam – 333,289
  2. Cigarette Butts – 244,734
  3. Plastic Bottles – 50,285
  4. Food Wrappers – 47,466
  5. Bottle Caps – 38,624
  6. Paper materials – 22,877
  7. Plastic Bags – 22,724
  8. Miscellaneous Packaging – 18,465
  9. Straws – 17,654
  10. Foam Materials – 17,527
  11. Beverage Cans – 17,337
  12. Rope (1 piece = 1 metre) – 11,365


She wants people to remember that a piece of trash down a storm drain can easily make its way out to a lake or ocean, becoming a risk and threat to local environments and a much bigger issue. “The more people understand exactly what we’re finding on our shorelines, and the more people understand that it’s not just an issue that’s just out in the middle of the ocean or in another country, it’s something that’s happening here at home too, then we can all play a role in that solution together.”