40 Tons of Trash Found on N.J. Beaches

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What do a plunger, a playpen, a jockstrap, fake plastic breasts, a pregnancy test and five pairs of underwear have in common?

They were among nearly 260,000 items of sometimes bizarre trash that either was left or washed up on New Jersey's beaches last year. The total: about 40 tons.

With Clean Ocean Action set to launch a new wave of beach cleanups on Saturday, the coastal environmental group released its tallies on the wretched refuse plucked from its teeming shores last year.

"People are unaware of the harmful effects of litter on the marine environment," said Cindy Zipf, the group's executive director. "Not only is it ugly to look at, it is lethal to marine life."

The most common items fouling the shoreline? As Mr. McGuire said to Benjamin in the movie "The Graduate," it boils down to one word: plastics.

"Plastics persist in the marine environment, anywhere from 50 to 400 years, and cause harm to wildlife through entanglement and ingestion," said Kari Martin, the group's policy communications director. "Animals mistake garbage, especially plastics, for food with lethal results."

Plastic caps and lids were the most commonly retrieved items at 32,328 pieces. The pantheon of plastics also included:

— Food wrappers or bags (27,147)

— Beverage bottles (15,373)

— Miscellaneous pieces of plastic (14,479)

— Straws or coffee stirrers (14,326)

— Plastic foam pieces (13,286)

— Shopping bags (6,349)

— Eating utensils (5,902)

— Six-pack rings (5,673)

— Buckets or other large containers (5,330)

— Cigar tips (4,245)

Volunteers also picked up 22,838 cigarette filters.

Other odd items included a pommel horse, a plastic pumpkin, two children's car seats, three bicycles, three television sets, a car hood, a can of shoe polish, a vacuum cleaner brush, a bed spring, and a fan.

The results from the pregnancy test applicator could not be determined, Martin said.

Items retrieved in past years have included prosthetic arms and legs, hundreds of shotgun shells, an enema bottle, a ski pole, a dead rabbit, a feather boa and purple wig, a set of false teeth, a lace doily, fake costume breasts, and perhaps most famously, a Polaroid photo of someone's genitals.

This is the 22nd year that Clean Ocean Action will carry out beach sweeps. Volunteers will gather at 57 sites Saturday from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Each will begin at 9 a.m. and last until 12:30, come rain or shine.

The recent heavy rains have washed even more trash than usual from storm drains and sewage systems onto New Jersey's beaches, and volunteers are needed to help clean it up, Martin said.