Cleanup Volunteers Find Weird and Wacky Trash on Our Beaches

Volunteers found this chic wardrobe accessory during the 2011 International Coastal Cleanup in Washington, D.C., along the Anacostia River. Credit: Lucian Fox

A grand piano. A fifty-two-pound bag of dog hair. Chandeliers and kazoos, lawn chairs and lottery tickets. These are just a few of the crazy things discovered along lakes, rivers and the ocean’s shores over the past quarter-of-a-century during Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup.

Tracking trash
Volunteers tally every item they pick up during the Cleanup, and Ocean Conservancy publishes the results in the annual Ocean Trash Index.

That information helps identify which items are showing up where, so we can take steps to stop ocean trash at the source. The official data card includes space to record 52 different things, from small cigarette butts and balloons to big household appliances.

And then there’s the section where volunteers jot down their “weird finds.”

We’d like to share a few stories we’ve heard from some of the folks who coordinate the International Coastal Cleanup for their state or country. A lot of the stuff trashing our ocean and waterways may surprise you:

Everything but the wedding bells
Over the years, Cleanup volunteers in Canada have found almost everything you would need for a wedding, including a wedding dress, engagement ring, tuxedo jacket, bow tie, wedding invitations, bride-and-groom cake topper and veil.” –Jill Dwyer (Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, a program of the Vancouver Aquarium), Canada Coordinator

“Our weirdest find was a whole toilet a hundred meters out from the coast on the sea bed. We were wondering who went to all the trouble to take the toilet out on a boat to dump it when he or she could have used the bulk refuse service, which is free in Malta.” –Vincent Attard (Nature Trust Malta), Malta coordinator

Election paraphernalia
“After basketball and boxing, politics is the most popular sport in Puerto Rico. Every four years during elections, we find an array of political flags, flyers and stickers that are both comical and depressing, considering the amount.” –Alberto Martí  (Scuba Dogs Society), Puerto Rico Coordinator

Storm debris
“After Hurricane Katrina, the things we pulled out of the water and removed from our shores were amazing. Not just tires, but the whole car; refrigerators still full; dining room tables with the silverware; and just about everything anybody can think of.” –Benjamin Goliwas (Home Port New Orleans), Louisiana coordinator

So you never know what might show up on a beach or shoreline in your corner of the world. Sign up today with your family and friends to be part of the International Coastal Cleanup this fall.

We can’t wait to see what YOU report on the data card!

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