Thousands of Angelenos volunteered Saturday to clean up LA County beaches, inland waterways, parks and streets, and happened upon a slew of unfriendly – and unusual – refuse.
Cigarette butts, plastic bottles and food wrappers comprise the usual trashy suspects, but the following are items volunteers did not expect to find:
- Divers discovered a rifle barrel in the water off Redondo Beach Pier. It was later confiscated by police.
- A 25-gallon barrel of oil was found dumped near a creek in Augora Hills.
- Volunteers on mountain bikes rode up on an abandoned paddle boat, part of a canoe and a plastic chair in Malibu State Creek Park.
- A decapitated rooster was found in Santa Monica Beach, likely a remnant of a voodoo or Santeria ritual.
- A dead cat was found in a bag in Ken Malloy Harbor Regional Park.
- Divers near Santa Monica Pier found a tattered headshot on the sea floor. Heal the Bay categorized that in the "only in LA file."
Some 38,598 pounds of trash were picked up during last weekend’s event by about 9,323 volunteers at 58 sites, according to a Heal the Bay news release titled "An Epic Amount of CCD Trash."
Turnout was down slightly from last year, when about 11,000 Angelenos participated. Cara Young with Heal the Bay attributed the drop off to a punishing weekend heat wave that saw temperatures along the coast climb into triple digits.
Still, the swelter didn't stop Southland students from joining in the ravage against refuse. Their teacher wrote to Young.
"They were flummoxed by the amount of cigarette butts and have a new disdain for smoking and smokers," Young said, reading from the letter.
In Santa Monica alone, 1,649 volunteers scoured the iconic beach which, Young said, can be deceiving.
"They walk out onto beaches and think it doesn’t look that dirty, but they pick up a lot of cigarettes butts, plastic bags and tiny pieces of Styrofoam," she said. "There are so many little items that need to be picked up."
Coastal Cleanup Day is an annual international event tied to Ocean Conservancy, which synthesizes volunteers’ findings to create a snapshot of the world’s treatment of trash.
The U.S. topped the list of participating countries in 2011, the year for which the most recent data is available, followed by the Philippines, Canada, India and the Dominican Republic to round out the top five.
Eighty percent of the debris found worldwide – which topped 9.18 million pounds last year – consists of the following 10 items, according to the Ocean Conservancy:
- Caps or lids
- Plastic beverage bottles
- Food wrappers, containers
- Cups, plates, forks, knives and spoons
- Glass beverage bottles
- Straws, stirrers
- Beverage cans
- Paper bags
Young said cleanup events, aside from removing potentially harmful trash, are meant to show people the path of their trash.
"A lot of people come in thinking, 'If I toss one wrapper on the ground, it’s not a big deal,'" Young said. "But when you multiply that by millions, it becomes a big deal."