When volunteering in a shoreline cleanup in Ontario a few years ago, Jill Dwyers husband came across what he thought was a huge cappuccino mug.
He considered keeping it until the end of the cleanup when someone informed the couple of its actual purpose.
An older gentlemen walked up and said, Oh I remember back in the day when there was one of those under everybodys bed, recalled Dwyer. So we realized maybe we wont be using it for our cappuccino.
The chamber pot is one of the more unusual items shes come across during shoreline cleanups, but even some common ones continue to surprise her.
Im always shocked at the amount of cigarette butts, said Dwyer, program manager for the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup whose 19th annual event runs Sept. 15 to 23.
Butts are among the dirty dozen items of litter collected during such eventsthey topped Vancouvers 2011 cleanup list61,417 were picked up.
The list also features food wrappers/containers, caps/lids, plastic bags, straws/ stirrers, paper bags, glass beverage bottles, cups, plates, forks and knives, beverage cans, pull tabs, tobacco packaging and cigar tips.
What we find with our dirty dozen list is that the list doesnt change much. Cigarette butts are always number one and the other items on the list, sometimes they change order, but theyre basically the same kinds of items, Dwyer explained. Part of our educational awareness program that we do year-round is to just let people know this is where the litter comes fromits coming from recreational activities.
Unusual items picked up include a wedding cake topper, a fully decorated Christmas tree, an electric blanket, an electric lawn mower, a broom, a shopping cart and a French flag.
The 2011 cleanup tally illustrates the seriousness of Vancouvers shoreline litter problem. The event involved 97 registered sites and 3,787 volunteers who covered more than 100 kilometres of shoreline.
Volunteers collected 3,605 kilograms of litter, filling 508 garbage bags with 107,087 items.
Volunteers also filled 136 recycling bags and organizers tabulated that almost 34 kilograms of litter was picked up off of each kilometre of shoreline.
But Dwyer is encouraged that more people sign up as shoreline cleanup volunteers each year.
More people participate and that introduces them to the issues of shoreline litter and aquatic debris. So once youve participated in a Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, you realize the issues and youre less likely to litter year-round. It really does open peoples eyes.
Volunteers can register for Vancouvers public cleanups, which are open to new participants, at ShorelineCleanup.ca. A map shows where sites are located, times and dates, as well as if there are any sites that still need a coordinator.
The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup is a conservation initiative between the Vancouver Aquarium and the WWF Canada. Its part of the International Coastal Cleanup, an international day of action in September where people from countries around the world remove litter from their shores.
The Canadian event originated in 1994 when a small group of Vancouver Aquarium employees collected data on the shoreline litter they removed from a beach in Stanley Park for the International Coastal Cleanup.