Researchers at UBC have determined that garbage from cigarette smokers is responsible for half the trash that coats shorelines in B.C.'s southern Strait of Georgia.
The study, by master's and PhD students in UBC’s Training our Future Ocean Leaders program, analyzed years of data gathered from volunteer cleanups on provincial coastlines, according to a UBC release dated August 2.
The cleanups—1,226 of them directed by the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup between 2013 and 2016—found that most of the garbage provincewide, up to 90 percent, was plastic waste.
However, regional variations in the type of litter meant that the southern Strait of Georgia, with large cities like Victoria and Vancouver included in the study, contributed cigarette filters and associated trash that made up about 50 percent of recovered garbage.
Elsewhere, shorelines produced a different mix of junk, according to paper coauthor Vanessa Fladmark in the release: “On the north coast of B.C., in places like Haida Gwaii and Prince Rupert, we see a lot more recreational items like large plastic bottles or plastic bags.”
Cassandra Konecny, another coauthor, said that government policies for managing waste could benefit from incorporating this information.
“While volunteer-led conservation efforts like the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup are great at removing shoreline litter, more needs to be done to actually reduce the amount of litter that ends up in the water or on the coast,” Konecny said.
“For example, we’ve heard a lot recently about banning single-use plastic straws in the City of Vancouver. But if the data shows that smoking is a big issue and mostly we’re just picking up cigarettes, that’s perhaps a good place to start.”
The paper, also coauthored by Santiago De La Puente, appeared in the Marine Pollution Bulletin.