Thousands of beachgoers, including politicians anxious to put their best environmental foot forward, searched for trash instead of sun, surf and fun during Saturday's national coastal cleanup.
Under driving rain in New Jersey and the blazing Florida sun, volunteers found broken glass, crack vials, dead birds, batteries, hair rollers and tons of plastic and cigarette butts."I can't believe we're finding dead birds on this beach," said Liz Nickel, 56, as she worked along the coast of Santa Monica, Calif. "I live here. My daughter grew up here. Since 1964 this was our favorite beach. It's too sad for me to come down here now. It's disgusting."
Coastal Cleanup Day is an end-of-summer national event coordinated by the Center for Marine Conservation in St. Petersburg, Fla.
In Florida, politicians were out in force to show their support for the environment. Gov. Bob Martinez and his Democratic challenger, former Sen. Lawton Chiles, hit the beaches to gather trash.
Celebrity-soaked Malibu in California, where beachgoers lie down to look up at the stars in the daytime, was crowded with cleanup volunteers. But at Surfrider Beach, environmental activist Glenn Hening was disgusted by the low turnout of surfer volunteers.
Volunteers were hard to come by in Virginia, where military workers who had formed the bulk of volunteers for past cleanups were preoccupied with the crisis in the Persian Gulf.
The cleanup produced some surprises among the tons of disposable cups and cans and plastic six-pack rings found on the nation's beaches.
In South Carolina, a volunteer at Edisto Beach found a bag of white powder with a razor blade.
"The police officer said it was about $300 to $400 in cocaine," said the cleanup coordinator.