On beaches and along inland waterways, volunteers found a rusted cookie sheet, suitcases, a five-pound pack of cocaine, a lottery ticket and enough cigarette butts to stretch 28 miles if placed end to end.
Those were only a few of the 7.3 million pieces of trash, debris and other discarded wastes collected and catalogued by volunteers for the Center for Marine Conservation in the group's sixth annual beach and waterway cleanup.More than 158,000 volunteers covered 4,500 miles of shoreline in 32 states and two territories during the cleanup, most of which took place in September 1993. A summary of what they found was released in a report Wednesday.
A similar cleanup is planned for later this fall.
Among the items collected were: 1.7 million cigarette butts, 344,502 pieces of glass, 203,330 straws, 333,996 bottles, 210,553 cans, 134,547 cups, 40,508 balloons, 30,326 light bulbs and fluorescent tubes, 10,166 plastic syringes, 55,470 plastic trash bags and 6,636 condoms.
A volunteer in Louisiana found a $2 lottery ticket, and another in Texas uncovered a five-pound bag of cocaine labeled "radioactive." Elsewhere, volunteers carried away everything from stripped vehicles to abandoned shopping carts.
"This report is not about trash, it's about people. People are the ones who pollute the ocean water," said Roger McManus, president of the Center for Marine Conservation.
The center, an environmental group that works to protect marine wildlife and their habitat, has sponsored an annual volunteer beach cleanup program since 1988.
While the 1993 searchers found and catalogued nearly 3.2 million pounds of debris and garbage, 15 percent more than the previous year, they were encouraged by the mix of trash.
There were fewer plastic items than in previous years, suggesting an impact from recycling and state bottle-deposit laws, and less garbage from boats and ships, especially the commercial fishing fleets.
"Cruise ships and other offshore sources are no longer the major contributors to the (beach trash) problem," said Kathy O'Hara, director of the collection program. She attributed the improvement to new treaties against waste being dumped overboard.
But trash and wastes from land-based sources are continuing to increase, she added.
Medical wastes were found as frequently in the 1993 cleanup as in previous years, accounting for 0.14 percent of all the trash collected.
Wastes from commercial fishing vessels dropped, the study said. Debris such as fishing lines, nets and traps that could be traced to commercial fishing vessels accounted for 1.95 percent of waste collected, compared with more than 3 percent in previous years.