The amount of food packaging litter found on shorelines in Canada almost doubled last year, according to a new report.

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup’s annual ‘Dirty Dozen’ report found that single-use food and beverage packaging accounted for 26.6% of all litter found on the country’s coasts last year, compared with 15.3% in 2019.

Volunteers also saw the influence of the Covid-19 pandemic on litter, with masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) found during cleanups.

Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup outreach specialist Julia Wakeling said: “We suspect this change may be one of the many implications of Covid-19, including more people ordering restaurant takeaways and consuming more individually packaged foods.

“We didn’t have a category on our data cards last year to formally track the amount of PPE-related litter that volunteers were finding, but we have added one for this year. This year’s results will be very interesting.”

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup is a conservation partnership by Ocean Wise and WWF-Canada.

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The initiative saw a 70% drop in participation last year, with cleanups being suspended for four months before being restricted to solo and single-household events.

Last year, around 15,000 people removed more than 41,000kg of litter from Canadian shorelines under the programme. In 2019, 83,815 volunteers removed 163,505kg.

WWF-Canada president and CEO Megan Leslie said: “Every piece of garbage we remove from our freshwater and marine shorelines is one less piece that can harm wildlife.

“We are so grateful to all of our Shoreline Cleanup volunteers for their efforts to protect wildlife habitat and hope all Canadians will join us this year in taking action to help nature thrive.”