EASTERN PASSAGE, N.S. -- The proportion of single-use food packaging litter found on shorelines across the country nearly doubled last year, according to a report from the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup.

The cleanup is a conservation partnership between Ocean Wise and World Wildlife Fund Canada.

“We suspect that change has to do with the implications of COVID-19,” explains Megan Leslie, the president and CEO at WWF. “More people are ordering takeout, consuming individually packaged foods.”

Every year, the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup compiles a list called The Dirty Dozen – the most common litter found in Canada.

“For the first time ever in the shoreline cleanup’s 27 year history, volunteers reported find PPE (personal protective equipment), like masks and gloves,” Leslie explains.

Angela Riley is the founder of Scotian Shores - a business that collects litter from shorelines and turns it into products that helps to fund their cleanup operations.

Riley says she agrees with Leslie, adding people need to be more aware of how they’re disposing of their personal protective equipment.

“Masks, gloves, there’s definitely been a huge uptick since we started this,” explains Riley. “We’ve been finding a lot of them and that’s scary because those masks can get wrapped around a bird’s neck or something.”

Along with pandemic pollution, the president and CEO of WWF Canada says in Nova Scotia alone, the most common item picked-up is rope from fishing gear.

In Halifax, Kimberley Wotherspoon volunteers with the Clayton Park West Litter Prevention Committee to help keep communities and shorelines clean.

She encourages others to do the same.

“We’re trying right now, through the Clayton Park West Litter Prevention Committee, is trying to pick up some of the garbage before it does get to the ocean, before it blows there,” explains Wotherspoon. “You’re finding the classics washed up on the shore, along with stuff like rope.”

With many people heading to the beach this time of year, those dedicated to maintaining our pristine coastlines are offering some helpful tips.

“Pack out what you pack in, that’s a really great saying,” Riley says. “Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but photos. I’m really hoping we can see more of that happening.”