Cigarettes, plastics top list of New Jersey beach trash

In this April 21, 2012 photo, Melissa Shapero holds one of many cigarette butts removed from the beachfront in Point Pleasant Beach, N.J., as part of statewide spring beach sweeps sponsored by the Clean Ocean Action environmental group. Cigarette filters were the most commonly found item out of more than 350,000 pieces of trash picked up from New Jersey's beaches last year. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)
April 16, 2013 9:12:30 AM PDT
I know what you did last summer on New Jersey's beaches ... and it was gross.

Based on the trash left behind by beachgoers, washed ashore from distant landfills or sewer overflows, one can only assume it was a summer to remember.

"Volunteers find the wild, the wacky and the weird during the beach sweeps - everything from ant traps to Yoda," said Cindy Zipf, executive director of the Clean Ocean Action environmental group, which organized the cleanups. "But at the heart of it all is the love of the Jersey shore - the ocean, beaches, and people who strive for a clean ocean."

Items collected in the environmental group's statewide beach cleanups included hair rollers; a hair clip with fake hair attached to it; tanning goggles, hair bows, and false eyelashes (there's no real proof this all came from Snooki, but she WAS in Seaside Heights again last year).

There also was a tube of theatrical blood, vampire teeth, a do-not-enter sign, a wicker sofa, 744 condoms or rubber bands (yes, they were listed that way, hopefully not interchangeably); 511 gloves; and 3,102 tampon applicators, also known locally as "Jersey beach whistles" for some children's penchant to, well, use them as whistles.

The group counted 351,781 items of trash collected on more than 60 beaches from the tip of Cape May to the Raritan Bay shore.

But more than that was actually scooped from the sand; 21 cleanup team captains lost their data when Superstorm Sandy damaged their houses just nine days after the fall cleanup. In 2011, the group set a record with than 475,000 pieces of litter removed from the shoreline.

Cigarette filters reclaimed the top spot on the unappealing list in 2012. Volunteers counted 49,362 cigarette butts, representing more than 14 percent of all trash picked up last year. Miscellaneous plastic pieces were second at 43,777. Other copious castoffs included 38,349 plastic caps or bottle lids, nearly 11 percent of the total; 33,162 food or candy bags, nearly 10 percent; and 22,094 foam pieces, representing more than 6 percent of the total.

Glass fragments (8,155); intact bottles (4,017), beverage cans (3,976) and pieces of lumber (6,713) also were well-represented, as were bottle caps (3,517); fluorescent lights (71); and tires (227).

Lost that fishing gear? There were 81 hooks and 34 sinkers retrieved from the shoreline, along with77 crab or lobster traps. Also, there were 639 nails; 1,096 paper bags; 554 Popsicle sticks; 420 blankets, sheets or towels, and 854 pieces of clothing, including some underwear.

It is the unusual trash that gets the most attention in the group's annual report, and this one is no different. The offbeat items included enough to start a varied wardrobe, including earmuffs, hiking boots, a leather purse, a girdle, flip-flops and a surgical boot.

Also, a Yoda doll head; a shopping cart; several whole lemons, an orange and a watermelon; a bottle of beer and a bottle of wine; plastic pineapples and strawberries; a plastic policeman and a rubber fish; a Swiss Army knife, a boomerang and an ant trap.

Want more? There was a toilet seat; a fully decorated Christmas tree; a roll of toilet paper; a $1 bill, $5 bill and a nickel; and a message in a bottle (contents undecipherable.)

Clean Ocean Action has been conducting beach sweeps along the entire Jersey shore for 26 years. Some notable items from past beach sweeps included a bag of heroin; a duck caller and a plastic cow; and a mannequin wearing only a pair of socks.

This year, the group's spring beach sweeps will be held April 27 from 9 am to 12:30 p.m. at more than 60 spots along the Jersey shore.


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