A sweep of New Jersey beaches last year turned up the usual seashells, sandcastles and seaweed. But, plenty of not-so-typical beach items popped up, too, including a keg, birth control pills and a rubber brain.
And if it sounds as though everything but the kitchen sink was in the sand or surf, a sink was found, too. Toilet bowls, rolls of toilet paper, a rug, a mattress, a vacuum cleaner, and a single size-13 sneaker were also found on beaches.
The Clean Ocean Action environmental group conducts volunteer beach sweeps twice each year and tallies the trashy toll to educate — and sometimes nauseate — people about just how careless some folks can be. The trash was either left behind by beachgoers, floated ashore after being tossed overboard from boats, or wound up on the beach after sewer system overflows during heavy storms.
The group released its findings Tuesday, and the list included some head-scratchers, including a full bottle of wine, a beer keg, a bikini, socks, several pieces of underwear, and a container of birth control pills.
Volunteers also picked up a half of a torn dollar bill, a pacifier, a pair of baby shoes, as well as a rubber brain. Also found was a stuffed goose head toy animal; a pickle jar, an industrial fan, a sleeping bag stuffed with rags, and a vintage Coke bottle.
Some decidedly unsavory items were found, as well, including numerous containers of what appeared to be urine.
"You can't make this stuff up: the bizarre, the disgusting stuff we've found over the years," said Cindy Zipf, the group's executive director. "But what is truly disgusting is that many of these are single-use items that are used once and tossed away, and that's totally unacceptable."
Last year's beach cleanups marked the 30th year of the program. In total, volunteers have picked up more than 5.7 million items from the shore over the past three decades.
"We had hoped we would have had clean beaches naturally by now, but it seems to be moving in the wrong direction," Zipf said.
The group created two mosaics of a mermaid and the sea god Poseidon, made entirely of trash collected from the beaches.
The trash haul also could have outfitted several sports teams: there were baseball bats and balls; battling helmets; a hockey stick; a can of tennis balls; ping pong balls and a fishing pole.
There also were rat traps; an empty safe; several containers of chewing tobacco, and numerous beach toys.
The volunteers along the state's entire 127-mile coastline picked up more than 332,000 pieces of debris, from small bits of plastic to 46 whole tires.
Also picked up (gingerly): 314 condoms; 323 syringes; and 3,432 tampon applicators.
Plastic pieces were the most commonly found litter, at 42,793 pieces. Plastics of all types, including coffee stirrers, bottles and shopping bags, accounted for more than 166,000 items, or about half of everything collected. There were more than 28,000 cigarette butts or filters sifted from the sands last year.