Skip to content

Plastic Straws Exit the Scene of Worst Offenders on Shorelines for the First Time in a Decade

Ocean Wise Shoreline Cleanup releases its annual Dirty Dozen list, exposing the most-commonly found litter on Canadian shorelines in 2023.

Vancouver, May 6, 2024 – Ocean Wise, a global conservation organization headquartered in Vancouver, has just released its annual Shoreline Cleanup Impact Report to be shared with governments, researchers and the public. Included in the report is the 2023 Dirty Dozen list, shedding light on the twelve most found items on Canadian shorelines in 2023. This list, drawn from citizen science collected from over 35,000 Ocean Wise Shoreline Cleanup volunteers across the country, shows trends in the prevalence and types of litter in our environment, and ultimately our ocean.  

This year, for the first time in a decade, the Dirty Dozen list will not include plastic drinking straws. This change may be due to a number of factors and cannot confirm a reduction in the total number of straws in the environment year over year. However, it is a positive indicator that efforts like Canada’s Single-use Plastics ban have a direct impact on our shorelines and ocean. 

“Seeing straws drop off the Dirty Dozen list came as a really positive surprise,” says Lasse Gustavsson, CEO of Ocean Wise. “While we can’t say for certain that this means the plastic ban worked, it certainly indicates that it had an impact. Straws, which were the first plastic item banned, have shown the biggest change year over year. I like to believe this is more than coincidence.” 

Ocean Wise experts are currently preparing data analysis that will report on effort-corrected trends in shoreline litter for its 2025 edition of the Dirty Dozen. This work aims to use the data collected by the one million plus volunteers who have joined Ocean Wise Shoreline Cleanups to model the absolute quantity of various litter items.  

“The world is taking action to eliminate plastic waste, as we saw at the latest plastics negotiations round in Ottawa, and Canada is among the leaders,” says the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change. “Canada’s ban on certain single-use plastics, coupled with efforts by all orders of government, has already started to help businesses and individuals move to sustainable alternatives, such as reusable items. There is a long way to go, but initiatives such as the Ocean Wise Shoreline Cleanup that positively engage and mobilize Canadians, are starting to see some encouraging signs. This cleanup program helps us better understand what items are littering our shorelines, and this kind of data contributes to smart policy-making toward creating a zero plastic-waste future.”

Another highlight from this year’s Dirty Dozen list is cigarette butts, which take the top spot yet again. Cigarette butts continue to dominate shoreline litter, accounting for a significant one-third of the litter collected during Ocean Wise Shoreline Cleanups nationwide last year. Ocean Wise is working to address cigarette butt litter through working with collaborators like Buttwatch, a community-based project started by a participant in one of the Ocean Wise Youth programs, Ocean Bridge. 

The 2023 Dirty Dozen will serve as a crucial benchmark to assess the impact on our shores in the years ahead, as well as a reference for trends associated with the Single-use Plastics ban and the pandemic.  

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Ocean Wise’s Shoreline Cleanup program. Since 1994, Ocean Wise has actively engaged over 1,000,000 volunteers in their local communities through its Shoreline Cleanup program, presented by Loblaw Companies Limited. It remains Canada’s largest direct-action initiative for protecting our precious marine ecosystems. Together, we’re making waves toward a cleaner, plastic-free future! 

Ocean Wise 

Ocean Wise is a globally focused conservation organization on a mission to restore and protect our ocean. Through research, education, public engagement, and international collaborations, we empower communities to fight three major ocean challenges: ocean pollution, overfishing and climate change. By equipping and empowering individuals, communities, industries, and governments, we can create a future where people and our oceans can thrive. Ocean Wise is headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia with staff across Canada, and Chile, and operates conservation projects that make national and international impact.  Learn more at 

Loblaw Companies Limited 

Loblaw is Canada’s food and pharmacy leader, and the nation’s largest retailer. Loblaw provides Canadians with grocery, pharmacy, health and beauty, apparel, general merchandise, financial services and wireless mobile products and services. With more than 2,400 corporate, franchised and Associate-owned locations, Loblaw, its franchisees and Associate-owners employ approximately 221,000 full- and part-time employees, making it one of Canada’s largest private sector employers. 

Loblaw’s purpose – Live Life Well®  – puts first the needs and well-being of Canadians who make one billion transactions annually in the company’s stores. Loblaw is positioned to meet and exceed those needs in many ways: convenient locations; more than 1,050 grocery stores that span the value spectrum from discount to specialty; full-service pharmacies at nearly 1,350 Shoppers Drug Mart® and Pharmaprix® locations and close to 500 Loblaw locations; PC Financial®  services; affordable Joe Fresh®  fashion and family apparel; and four of Canada’s top-consumer brands in Life Brand®, Farmer’s Market™, no name® and President’s Choice®. 

For additional information, please contact: 

Cayley Elcombe 
Communications Specialist, Ocean Wise 
[email protected]  

Posted May 6, 2024 by Cayley Elcombe

Join the mailing list

Subscribe to our newsletter to receive emails about events, news about ocean successes and issues, and opportunities to support us.

Help spread the word

Share this page on social media and help get the word out on ocean conservation