More than 70 people collected garbage around Humber Marshes in Toronto on Sunday as part of a national effort to keep Canadian shorelines clean.
Peter Doyle, general manager of Ripleys Aquarium of Canada, said volunteers and aquarium staff took part in what is known as the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, a conservation initiative that began in Stanley Park in Vancouver, B.C. in 1994 but turned into a national campaign in 2002.
Early Sunday, the Toronto group found plastic bags, many cigarette butts and plenty of straws.
"People use way too many plastic bags and plastic bottles, and then they are just thrown away. Because they are so light, wind and rain will carry them into the water and they will wash up on the shore," Doyle said.
"We are trying to educate people to use less plastic."
The aquarium organizes shoreline garbage collecting about twice a year. Doyle said it estimates it collects than more 45 kilograms of garbage annually.
Doyle said there seems to be more garbage littering the shoreline this year and he believes the increase may be related to fluctuating water levels on Lake Ontario.
Flooding and receding waters may have stirred up more garbage, he said.
In April, a group organized by the aquarium found significantly more garbage in the area than it did a year ago.
Humber Marshes in Etobicoke was selected because it's important ecologically, but also because it's the site of much garbage, said Doyle.
"We selected an area that is dirty and has lot of garbage buildup. We started four years ago."
Doyle said the aim of local events is to keep the shoreline clean and to spread awareness about the need to use reusable products.
"The No Straw Movement is great and we really support that as well," he said.
Carmen Garcia, a volunteer, said she wanted to take part because she wanted to do her bit for the environment. She said she found cigarette butts and broken glass.
"I live close by and I picked the event closest to my house," she said. "I wanted to experience it for myself."
The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup is a conservation initiative spearheaded by the Vancouver Aquarium and WWF-Canada.