Along with the trash (mostly paper and plastic), we always find a few treasures, tidbits and oddities.

Below are samples from the most recent litter pickups.

I have been cataloguing these finds since 2008. If you want to see even MORE of them, click here for another page of photos.

Want to see what's in a bag of trash? What's in the bags of recyclables?

November 2019

           What's interesting here is that we found this dog at all. We had seen him guarding an encampment back in May when we were cleaning Parkmoor, a city street that parallels 280 on the north side, between Meridian and Bascom. There was a large encampment behind the fence (with a big hole in it) in the no-man's-land between Parkmoor and Hwy 280, which you can see in the background in the second pic. It's hard to tell, but the roadway is 40-50 feet below street level there. When someone left the encampment, he/she pitched the stuffed dog over the railing onto the hillside below -- where we found him on Saturday. He's got a large tear in his neck and he's dirty, but - hey - what's not to love? He's in our basement right now, awaiting clean-up and stitch-up. I do a double-take every time I go down there -- Yikes, there's a dog in our basement!
A life-sized stuffed toy dog   The same dog in May was guarding the entrance to an encampment on Parkmoor.

A bobblehead statute of Evander Kane, a Sharks player. He's holding a tiny dog -- which is also a bobblehead. These sell new for $20 on the internet.   Two scented candles. They were inside a box that originally held four candles.

  A tie, with the tie clasp still in place.

Some medical supplies - Dressing Retention Sheet (whatever that is) and a bandage roll.   An evening bag, a jewelry bag pouch, and a plush tote



Two fake braids,
probably extensions.


October 2019

We don't find cash every month, and we mostly find coins, Every now and then we find a bill just lying there with the litter!  

Two nice glasses


A nice pair of jeans. We will wash them and donate them to Goodwill.

A bottle orange juice, unopened.   A Blueberry Fig Bar and a Ghirardelli Chocolate Square, still sealed in the wrapper,   A single contact lens, still sealed in its wrapper. I knew it was a contact lens because I used to wear them. This was a first!

A cute little frog hanging ornament....   That now has a home on our catio.   An Air Jack. According to the web research I did, it's to help open a locked car. You wedge it between the door and the body and inflate it.
A single slipped, shaped like an, uh, I'm not sure what, narwahl?   We will keep him with our other stuffed animal orphans.   A pair of good-looking sandals in excellent shape. They will be donated.



Three empty containers for cannabis products.   A empty tube of Hunters Mud Brown face paint. I guess you don't want to spook the deer with your big white mug!
I'm not actually sure what this is. It was spread out all over one section of freeway and we just rolled it up like this. It's water-repellant, but not water proof. Roofing paper, maybe?   A little red toy carousel. It originally had five horses, now just one..... so sad!   The creepy head of a Woody doll. Maybe we will use him as a Halloween decoration.

The leather zippered holder and many, many pages from a Bible in Spanish.

Most of the pages were spread out all along one small section, but we found a few pages a mile west and another page on Highway 880 at The Alameda exit. The wind was pretty crazy for a couple of days, so those pages really went for a ride.

Two photos of straws. The one on the left was taken this past weekend. The one on the right was taken in February of 2018, about 18 months ago. Sabine and I just made a point to collect all the straws we found. It doesn't look like there has been any change, despite all the publicity about avoiding single-use straws and the policy of many restaurants of providing straws only when requested. I guess the folks who litter haven't gotten the message (sigh!).   And this is to show you how very tidy and considerate some litterers can be. They went to the effort to remove the lid and straw from their cup, stuff all the detritus from their meal in their plastic cup, put the lid and straw back on the cup -- and THEN they threw it out the window!


I saw this posted on either Facebook or Instagram and thought it needed to be seen by visitors to these pages. Amen!

Sabine and I went for a walk in our neighborhood on Sunday afternoon. We picked up six empty aluminum drink cans, two empty plastic drink containers, and one empty glass bottle in TWO BLOCKS -- and there were trash cans on the street corners!



September 2019

We thought this little rubber dragon was black until...   ... we washed him!


    Turned out he is purple with green wings!

The quarter is there to show you how small he is.

  This the plat map for a subdivision in San Carlos. I wonder what it was doing out on Highway 280 in San Jose.

We found a lot of this styrofoam sheeting last month in the same area, big pieces like these and dozens of little pieces, all scattered along this stretch of freeway. Two months in a row? Where is it coming from???

When you tear it into pieces small enough to fit in an Adopt-A-Highway bag, you also get hundreds of teensy pea-sized bits. If we are finding small pieces, that means there are millions of those little peas along here too! Aaargh!

        Some of the clothing we found. These pieces were in good enough shape to wash and donate. We found other pieces that were too stained and/or sun spotted to save.
  Bolt cutters. Rusted almost too much to be used, but some WD-40 made them usable again. Probably used by the people cutting the chain link fencing so they can access the land along the freeway for their tent homes.  



Part of a package of iQOS 'cigarettes.' The quarter is so you can see the size. These little cartridges go in the latest gadget for getting nicotine into your system -- the tobacco is heated, not burned. By the way, "iQOS" stands for "I Quit Ordinary Smoking." Read more here.
A single boot. I may see about posting it on a website for people who only need to buy one shoe, because it's in good shape. A lot of cards -- debit cards, credit cards, medical cards, gift cards -- for one person, plus a photo of someone she probably loves (son? husband?). She has a common name, but I was able to locate her through her credit union. It turned out that the photo is of her husband. She lived in Modesto, was in San Jose for a wedding and accidentally left her wallet on the roof of her car. I mailed the items back to her. A good ending for that story.

August 2019

A sweet but really dirty little Lamb Chops toy for a child.   The same sweet little Lamb Chops toy for a child... after a bath!     A soccer ball (non-professional), fully inflated! We gave it to the family with young children that lives across the street.
Yep, that's half an English muffin, toasted and buttered. The other half was found about 75 yards farther along the on-ramp   A pair of athletic slippers, the kind basketball players put on after practice.   Two grout sponges. We donated them to a local man who works with concrete and pavers.
Another first - two packages of teething biscuits, Sadly, they were crushed almost to powder.   A roll of toilet paper.    
We thought it was a nice vase, one that was worth saving, cleaning, and donating.......

  ....until we saw the other side.    

This Belfast Beer can had been out there a VERY long time......   ....judging from the pop top opening. Those pull tabs were gone by the late 1970s.   We found an astonishing amount of styrofoam this month! Sheets like this, and also many, many chunks about the size of a fist. Such a waste!
A few of the gloves we found.  
We filled two Adopt-A-Highway bags with recyclable glass bottles, aluminum cans, and plastic bottles. When I sorted the contents, the plastic water bottles alone filled one entire bag. I counted them as I was sorting them: 196 single-use plastic water bottles, plus the five large bottles in front. I look forward to the day that we come to our senses and stop selling water in bottles.  

July 2019

A mannequin head. Creepy, huh? Maybe I'll save it for a Halloween decoration.   Most of a bag of vacuum cleaner bags.     A blanket with a picture of the Virgin of Guadalupe on it.  
Some of the books we found tossed behind some bushes. There were three times this many, but most of them were badly damaged.   An American flag in good condition. Probably lost during the Fourth of July celebrations.   Two notebooks full of three-hole punched binder paper.  
Somebody who uses the Meridian on-ramp to 280 likes these mini-bottles of vodka. Every time we clean this on-ramp we find dozens of the empties on the drivers side of the ramp.   A recipe book from the Blackstone Grill in Boston. Recipes include Lemon Blueberry Pancakes, California Club Griddle Pizza, Blackstone Fajitas, and Grilled Pineapple with Ice Cream (would you really need a recipe for the last one?).   The business end of a pitchfork. The handle broke so I guess it's okay to dump the fork.  
Sabine found a $5 bill!   Karthik and the three members of the Robotics Club with the three bags they filled.   Who has a slide projector these days? If you haven't got anything to show them on, I guess you just toss them out the car window!  

Sabine is so good at finding interesting tiny objects on the freeway. She said these are pencil tops and each is about the size of a dime.



        Most of a package of sheet insulation  

June 2019

A bustier -- the first we've ever found!   A clean white sun hat in excellent condition.     A pair of camouflage cargo pants. They are just a bit larger than I wear, but I think I can use them when I'm cleaning the freeway!  
An almost full bottle of suntan lotion.   A Fall Prevention Kit. It had the expected harness with clips and lanyards and D-rings. It also contained a nice supply of orange "Don't Trash California" trash bags!   This palm tree had obviously been cut back but -- it's resprouting. Tough little guy!  
A light canvas bag with a drawstring   A plastic chair -- the first we have ever found.   This is the collection of coins that Charlie found at a crash site. A total of $3.73, plus two carwash tokens.  
"I don't have my math homework. No, my dog didn't eat it. I was working on it in the car and it flew out the open window!"   Two packages of Trojan condoms -- pretty beat up, but unopened.   A plastic watering can -- the first we have ever found.  
We got to a pull-out area at the Menker Avenue on-ramp, where we usually park, and found a pile of yellow bags. Someone had been cleaning our section! I can't figure out why the supervisors who take out inmates from the County jail can't ask whether a section is already adopted and LEAVE IT ALONE! Why pick up an area that's going to get picked up soon by Adopt-A-Highway volunteers? And they had put NINE people with one bag each on a stretch where we normally put 2-3 workers. Each of those nine workers filled about 1/4 of their bag. What a waste of plastic bags! They also didn't bother to put aside recyclable items. We opened and combined the NINE bags into TWO bags, and pulled out over 40 recyclable aluminum cans and plastic bottles. We salvaged the 7 empty plastic bags and will re-use them. The single white bag we filled by cleaning the on-ramp, which they didn't bother to do.  




May 2019

Almost one entire Adopt-A-Highway full of clothing. Pants, shirts, t-shirts, socks, jackets, sweaters, vests, all dirty but salvageable. A trip through the washer and dryer and they will be donated. Most of the items came from encampments along the freeway. We don't take clothing directly from the encampments, only what is discarded and tossed down to the freeway.     It will be a nice blanket, once it's washed.  
Last month there were a dozen hubcaps on the Leigh-Bascom off-ramp. This month it was close to 30 -- scattered along the highway as if someone had a truck-load of them and they spilled off the back.      That's a Madeleine cookie!   It was once a nice decorative pillow. This side wasn't too bad, but the other side was ripped and badly stained.  

Several yards of rope.   A scale -- not working.   An unopened bottle of Pedialyte.  



This was up on the street level (see the highway in the background). There was a encampment along the top of the off-ramp. We were startled at first until we realized they'd place a stuffed toy guard dog at the entrance to the camp.

        Not just one or two, but FOUR bottles of pee. I realize that, if you're living on the side of a highway, you don't have many options. I just wish we didn't have to deal with them every month.  

April 2019

Two photo albums with flag covers. They were still in the cellophane packaging, but I had to open it to see what they were.     A big heavy-duty plastic barrel.     The usual assorment of Reflective Raised Pavement Markets, commonly known as Botts Dots. I have several dozen of them in a box in my basement. If there is ever a market for them, I think I've cornered it!  
Two perfectly good cables.   An unusually large number of gloves. As usual, there are more left-handed gloves that right-handed gloves. You should also see there is one pair.   A hair band with paper flowers on it.  

An unusually large number of hubcaps. These were all found on the same on-ramp, and four more were found further along the freeway.   Top Hatters needs supporters? Top Hatters is a motorcycle club based on San Jose.   63 mini-bottles of Seagram's vodka, plus another 10 mini-bottles of another brand of vodka. All of them were found on the driver's side of the same on-ramp. Somebody has a nip before heading down the freeway -- scary!  

March 2019

Cute toy! Push the blue button and it plays several different tunes. Video here   Kids pajamas. A trip through the washing machine, and they will go to Goodwill.   A woman's knit sweater.

An XL jacket that sells for about $45. Just a small tear in the lining, but otherwise in great shape.   A checked shirt. Also in good condition.   Just one slipper. Very sad. I took a photo because the Mickey Mouse on it was too good to pass up.  

Unopened packages of noodles! Why dump them? They were near the site where we gather before going out on the highway. We gathered them into one of our Adopt-A-Highway bags and will take them to the Second Harvest Food Bank. It's a shame to waste food!      
One more adorable stuffed animal for our collection!   A twenty dollar bill and 50 cents in small change -- found on the freeway. That brings our total for almost 15 years of once-a-month clean-ups to $2,071.59!      





I have been cataloguing these finds since 2008. If you want to see even MORE of them....

Photos from 2018
Photos from 2017
Photos from 2016
Photos from 2015
Photos from 2014
Photos from 2013
Photos from 2008-2012

For even MORE photos click here