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

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

Below are samples from litter pickups 2008-2012, in reverse order. I didn't post photos every month.

December 2012


An Israeli passport (expired)    A tiny stuffed toy dog
Tweezers and a king-size jingle bell   A dog boot -- for pet owners to put on their dog's paws to keep them clean on rainy (muddy) days. (Who knew!)
Photos taken by Charlie - BEFORE and AFTER. What a difference five minutes can make! I wish more people would volunteer and help make this kind of difference every month....

November 2012

(A small crew and a short time to pick up due to the threat of rain.)

A cute baby picture, a pipe, and a picture of five members of our small but industrious crew standing with the 12 bags we filled.

October 2012

This cute stuffed toy rabbit was gray with grime when we picked him up on the shoulder... was this little white polar bear. (Or is it a white puppy?) A little Woolite and they look almost new. A container of Greek yogurt, still safe in its foil seal.

The Tale of Two Toilet Seats: One broken and the other still in its plastic shrink-wrap.


September 2012

Technically we spotted and retrieved this adorable fellow on our way home after the litter pick-up, but he was too cute not to include here. When we picked him up he was filthy, and missing both eyes and his nose!   A pair of infant socks
Nearly an entire trash bag of the thin styrofoam sheets that are used when packing tile. It was spread out all over a hundred yards of Higway 280 - what a mess!   A pair of prescription glasses, a bit scratched, and probably pretty expensive to replace



A very nice red bamboo parasol in remarkably good condition. It is missing the catch that allows it to stay open (which is probably why it got tossed), but otherwise it's quite a find.

August 2012

A Cup-A-Noodles, still wrapped.   A **old** (2006) bottle of pills from a Los Angeles drug store.
A red bow in astonishingly good condition.   A purple knit cap with a Tinker Bell applique.
We find a lot of sponges, but very rarely one still in the plastic wrapper. We have probably given three dozen sponges to our friendly handyman that we've picked on the freeway over the past six years.   We always find tools. This is part of the collection we found this time.

PLASTIC BAGS ANALYSIS We picked up four bags full of recyclable aluminum cans, glass bottles, and plastic. I have often reported that about half of the recyclables are plastic bottles. I decided this time to provide something more graphic. I sorted the four bags of recyclables. (Keep in mind that all this was picked up by 9 volunteers working on less than 2 miles of freeway for about 3 hours.)

On the left you'll see (from left to right in the background) a small pile of opaque plastic jugs, about a dozen glass bottles and then two plastic bags about half full. One of those bags contains aluminum cans and the other is plastic bottles that are NOT water bottles. The pile IN FRONT is all plastic water bottles. There are a few of the flavored waters and a few that are multiple-serving jugs, but the rest are those single-serving plain water bottles that sell by the case at your local store. The photo on the right is that same pile put into bags - two FULL bags. Perhaps I should have counted them and figured out the total number of gallons of water those bottles represent.

You cannot just blame it on it being summer and the weather is hot because this is typical of what we find. When did so many people become addicted to bottled water and why do they all seem to think it's acceptable to toss the empties out the window of their car???

Because of San Jose's plastic bag ban, the number of plastic bags is down to 12-15 per month. Can we do the same thing for plastic water bottles?

July 2012

A frisbee with a happy face pasted on it A plastic bag of felt pens and stickers
Several pages of sheet music Three small stuffed animal toys, with the tags still attached.
A laminated South Park poster A cute pair of slippers!

June 2012

Tony Robbins inspirational guidance book, with highlighted passages. A badly abused, veery loong-handled hammer.

Most of a jar of peanut butter. One of about six dozen 8.5" by 11" glossy brochures that were spread out over about 100 yards of Highway 280. According to the company, the brochures had been lost during delivery.

May 2012

Charlie found a metal tape measure A purple spider doll Keys on a chain - sitting on a post
That's an unbroken wine bottle. You have to wonder how it got there without breaking...
A huge iron hook - perhaps from a tow truck?  

April 2012

A black handbag   One of two flashlights -
only this one still worked



A tiny plastic turtle (that's a dime next to it). Crista discovered when she took it home and washed it that -- it squirts! It's a bath toy!   Heart-shaped bobbles on
a keychain
21 mini-bottles of Vendange Chardonnay found along one
stretch of highway.
A Leatherman Kick multi-blade tool that just needed a litttle cleaning.

I wondered why this Coke can seemed so heavy...
it was full of cigarette butts!

Not something you see every day: a plastic Starbucks cup -
with the straw inside and the lid nearby - tucked into one
of those sand-filled crash barrels!

An encampment had caught fire and the tenants (or perhaps the fire department when it arrived) pushed the burning debris down a hillside. We spent 20 minutes picking up the charred remains.

An empty Frappaccino bottle into which someone had stuffed an empty Newport cigarette pack!  

February 2012

A small amber bottle (after we washed it and removed the label).     A small pink plastic box in the shape of a heart - perfect for Valentines Day!   A red toy car the whizzes forward when wound up by sliding it in reverse.
A Faberge box that once held a watch.   A small purse...   .. with some earrings inside

A dump site with dozens of cardboard boxes that once contained toner cartridges.  

Some of the SEVERAL DOZEN business cards for Mt. Diablo Tree Service, with a 2011 calendar on the reverse (useless now, so naturally they should be thrown out the car window on the highway!)

January 2012

Cash in an envelope. Crisp unfolded bills. On the envelope we found an email address, phone number and address. It took some doing, but we finally managed to return the money to its grateful but somewhat embarassed owner (he'd left the envelope inside his calendar on top of his car)    

A can of Campbell's cream of muschroom soup - UNOPENED!

A zipper jacket in good condition. We washed it and donated it.  

Two shirts, one long sleeved, one short sleeved. We washed them and donated them.


A string of plastic flags.

A heavy, solid-brass cover. It netted $5.55 when we took it to the recycling center.  

A watch that had been out there, and probably buried, for a loooong time.

December 2011

A red ball - the green tennis ball shows relative size. Antenna doll head - Raiders cap on backward, pink sunglasses, blowing a bubble. A wicker basket.
Five huge black plastic bags full of yard waste, dumped in the trees. The same bags after we pulled them out from under the trees Some decorative apples made of styrofoam and painted red
$20 bill - another worker also found a $20 bill!

At the finish line, after filling 43 bags with trash and 4 bags with recyclables - very tired and ready for pizza.

November 2011

A tiny doll head (we found a tiny hand too)   A rubber spider (that's a penny in front to show the relative size)   A tiny pair of dice, each about the size of tip of my little finger.
Even more of those Jack Daniels chips (see photos from last month, below)   A white-faced Yoda figurine? A rabbit in a judo outfit? An astute fan of these pages identified this figurine as Master Shifu  from "Kung Fu Panda."   One of the dozen rolls of toilet paper we picked up - most of it blown into streamers over a 1/4 mile of Highway 280!


This is what toilet paper looks like when the rolls have broken open and separated into streamers and bits and blown along the freeway, snagging on bushes, grass and weeds. After it rains, and the toilet paper dries out, and the rains come again, the toilet paper starts to disintegrate, it has to be pulled out of the grass and weeds and bushes by hand. What a mess!

Yes, the winter rains would eventually have reduced it all to gray mush and it would have disintegrated completely and disappeared into the soil, but that could have taken several months. I couldn't stand the thought of our section of the freeway looking like the floor of a gas station bathroom!

October 2011

An adorable onesie that we will wash and donate     A pair of drumsticks. We will see if a local music teacher would like them.   A tiny tennis ball, a toy - compare the size to a credit card.
A few of the dozens of poker chips we found on one stretch of Highway 280  

Men's black dress socks, some of them still held together with the plastic string. Once they are washed they will look new again!

  A pair of black, size 4 Nike tennis shoes.
Two greeting cards   A nearly full tube of Wild Berries body lotion

September 2011

A hiker's lumber pack A pair of high heels - almost new!
Nearly new tiny teddy bear (5" high) A child's swing, complete with the ropes
The irony is in the wording of the tag: "DO NOT LOSE! SUPPLY CLOSET KEY" Blue boxer shorts.

August 2011

Toy sheep An old rusted bicycle frame A balloon, still inflated, stuck in a bush... now there's a survivor!

June 2011

One pie tin..... ... of the several dozen spread out along 30 yards of NB Highway 880 near 280.  
We also found several dozen blank CDs and the spindle they had been stored on. A first aid kid in nearly new condition..... ...full of new supplies, still in the wrappers. Score!
One of two Santana Row parking citations A bunch of wire coat hangers An antenna flag in nearly new condition
That day we found not just ONE.... ... not just TWO.... but THREE $5 bills!

May 2011


18" auger, and a tiny screw driver. The silver dot above the auger is a dime to show the relative size.

A rather realistic plastic bumble bee, with a dime to show the relative size. It scared the beejeezus out of Sabine!    


A tiny plastic comb, probably for a doll. Again, the dime shows the relative size.
A rather impressive pile of clothing and other material this month. A little boy's pants and 49ers jacket, a woman's dress and skirt, a gray hoodie, a fitted sheet, several scarves, and more. They will be washed and, if they come out clean, we'll donate them.   A Scorpion EXO-700 motorcycle helmet. These babies sell for up to $300 and it's in good condition! I plan to post it on Ebay or craigslist and see if anyone wants to buy it, and the volunteer who found it will get the proceeds.
A small "New Testamaent Psalms and Proverbs" book....   ... that had been left out in the rain - how sad!

January 2011

We found an onion. The top photo shows it on site, nestled in pine needles, and the other photo was taken when we got it home. Two crutches, obviously not a pair, found in two different locations. What are the odds of finding a single crutch? Then what are the odds of finding two different crutches on the same day?

A ball with a slogan and an 800 number for a Veterans Health Clinic A tiny Nemo bath toy A plastic spider
A packet of condoms - two unused. A girl's ballet slipper and a tiny sock with two airplanes attacking Godzilla

A #2 Bay 101 chip and a #1 Garden City chip
A Harley-Davidson cap - cool! A XXXL gray hoodie. Three hubcaps in one bush. There were three more farther along this off-ramp.

December 2010

Canadian flag and some foam blocks for teaching reading and spelling   A full-head rubber Halloween mask.    
Both gloves (a rare find!)   A teensy Winnie-the-Pooh slipper (just one)   A Tuppberware full of spaghetti

On the left side of off-ramp from southbound Highway 280 to southbound Meridian we discovered about 50 yards of the shoulder covered with used Kendall Webcol Alcohol Prep packets. Thousands of them! There was no way to pick them up individually, or even in handfuls. Sabine and I dro\ve home and got rakes. After raking them into piles we stuffed it all into Adopt-A-Highway bags. We filled THREE of those bags (along with the dead grass and weeds, dirt and gravel), and the two of us wasted 45 minutes. And we didn't even get them all!

This is not the first time we have cleaned up these alcohol prep "spills" and the previous ones were also in this area (the Meridian-Southwest Expressway-Highway 280 interchange). I'm told by CalTrans personnel that some believe this isn't really a "spill" but some sort of next-generation graffiti. Because the packets are white and have a foil lining, they catch the headlights of on-coming cars and light up like silver confetti. ("Hey, man, take the Meridian off-ramp from Highway 280 and check out what I did!) Someone seems to get a thrill out of taking a bag of used alcohol prep packages and sprinkling them liberally on the side of the road. Is it disgruntled medical clinic employee? Is it someone who's given the job of taking bags of the used preps to a medical waste disposal facility and decides to have a little fun at our expense? Is someone pulling the bags of used wipes out of a dumpster behind a medical clinic and using them for this demonic "art" project?

As for me, I'd like to take the little rascal and make him/her pick those packets up one by one until the contaminated area is cleaned! With his/her teeth. In 100+ degree heat! If I knew what medical facility they were coming from, I'd be screaming in their lobby, demanding that heads roll!

November 2010

Photo from Discovery High School 1998 A collection of cards from some empty wallets
Several dozen paper advertisements A ring-style Frisbee
A dump site consisting of 80+ plastic bottles - either Pepsi and vodka!
A large panorama photograph of the graduating class of Silver Creek High School's class of 2006.

October 2010

An adorable "Cat-In-The-Hat" hat for
a child's costume (too small
for an adult's head).
  HUNDREDS of postcard-sized advertisements, many of them printed by ILLUSIONS SUPPER CLUB in Palo Alto. They are stuck under car windshield wipers to entice owners to visit the club. The car owners toss them and they wind up as litter all over our streets and highways. We found four different postcards this time, spread out on the streets and roads near San Jose City College.
That's a one-dollar bill folded up
inside a plastic bag.
  And this is the one-dollar bill freed from its bag. It was damp, despite the bag. See, we DO find cash on the freeway!   Six (count 'em- SIX!) bags on one freeway off-ramp, plus half a bag of recyclables. It was disgusting! This is the off-ramp used by parents of students (and parents of prospective students) at Harker Academy, a pricey private school located just off this exit. You'd think Harker would care enough to get involved in the clean-up of this off-ramp!

August 2010

Colorful kid's tights. A pinwheel.
An adorable child's bonnet. A 5 1/4 " floppy disk! Wow! An antique!

JULY 2010

A green canvas zipped bag A necklace made of tiny green dice.  
Nice wicker basket Spiderman Knapsack 3-hole punch
Three credit cards (we found the owner and mailed them to him) Maracas Sweet stuffed doggie. A little dirty, but machine washable. Some child must miss this!

JUNE 2010

Yes, that really is a toilet in there with the bags of trash. No, it did not fall off a truck. It was found right there on the dirt at the side of the road, and unbroken. Somebody dumped it. This is a photo taken BEFORE we put the bags out, and you can see the rubber boots behind the toilet. The stuff we find on the freeway continues to amaze me! A fairly new, undamaged, orange flannel shirt that, when cleaned, will be given to Goodwill.
A closer look at the size 14 rubber boots. Size 14! They were found near the toilet (see photos above). If you could use a pair of size 14 rubber boots, let me know! Two adorable rubber toys. That's a dime in front of them so you can see how small they are. Just sitting on a off-ramp.... A Trivial Pursuits game card! It's odd enough to find a Trivial Pursuits card on the side of the freeway --- but it's in German!

May 2010


A individual beer holder shaped like a Giants tshirt

Teensy little plastic sword - about the size of a cell phone.  
A cute handmade one-year anniversary card from Megan to Dennis ("1 year of loving my MAN!") from March 13, 2003. I hope the fact we found this on the freeway does not mean they are no longer together...
Photo of a girl in a fancy (prom?) dress Three kids mugging in a photo booth A dog show


Pam with her $1,000,000 bill The $1,000,000 bill! [A girl can dream....]  
A pillow shaped like a Coke can A pink plastic "N" Two tiny Lego pieces
A jar of makeup A packet of herbal dietary supplement called Organic Mothers Milk that, according to the label, promotes healthy lactation. A spool of green thread and a plastic sparkly heart with a peel-off backing
A tiny styrofoam skull Recyclables sorted. The plastic bag is full of plastic; buckets contain squashed aluminum cans; glass bottles in front; plastic #2 on the left. The usual assortment of tools


Nine empty Clamato bottles made a lot of Bloody Marys. It must have been quite a party!
Two adorable rubber toys, each about the size of a child's fist. Remember puka shell necklaces?
A water glass. Questions: (1) who drinks from a glass while driving? (2) Why throw it out the window? (3) How did it manage to not shatter? A child's plastic watering can. It holds about a cup.


This road map -- that was probably not very useful on Highway 280.
We found over $1000 in "funny" money A coconut!


A single, dark green stiletto high heel - size 8 1/2.
A small framed acrylic painting A plasti'c bird decoy.


Three plastic duck decoys, including the lines and weights. A sweet birthday card with a sentimental personal message inside -- and someone threw it away!


A bottle of Goof Off. Removes dried latex paint, glue, adhesive, etc.    A box of Survey Marking Paint cans. Empty cans. In the dry weeds 15 feet from the side of the road. Hmmmm.....



   This Fisher-Price toy violin-guitar is only about 2 feet high and plays are really annoying song when the green button is pushed! Somebody got annoyed enough to toss it out a car window into the bushes.

JUNE 2009

A jewelry box containg two necklaces and a ring. Nails for a nail gun
A garment bag A baby's bib
Three empty wallets, all in good condition. One of them is a Ralph Lauren Polo wallet that sold for $35 when it was new. A deck of cards for a game called Crimson Crisis
Two views of an odd metal box. Holes in the lid. Handle so it could be strapped on... Purpose???

MARCH 2009

This was a very odd find - a heavy rock? A metal ball? Some kind of weight? About the size of a tennis ball, it weighed three pounds! One of those "I am deaf" cards
A white artificial flower A paint brush and a spoon
A CHP "Rite in the Rain" ticket book once belonging to Officer Jones (Badge 18047)  


Knife, fork, and screwdriver A teensy stuffed toy dog, probably designed to go on a keychain
Baby's shoe (just one....) A hammer
Woman's shoe (just one....) A book about setting boundaries
Umbrella (a bit faded in spots, but still waterproof) Black baseball cap
A red shirt and a red knit cap It is hard to tell in this photo but the beer bottle has the cap on and is still full of beer!
These are just four of the over two dozen blue bags we picked on one short stretch of highway.
Two pairs of gloves. The yellow ones were in pretty good shape, so we added them to our supply of gloves our volunteers use. Two pitchforks! We figured out they had been used by CalTrans during a weed abatement clean-up they'd done on a hillside, so we took them back
Several dozen color photographs A tiedown


A dozen unopened packages of earplugs (we found a few more, but had discarded them before we realized how many there were! A Charter Club (Macy's brand) mixing bowl in perfect condition - tossed into the bushes. We found several more dishes in the same area, but this was the nicest.
Two of the three pillows we found. A baseball in remarkably good condition!
The recyclables we found, sorted by type: nearly one full bag of plastic bottles, about half a bag of aluminum cans, and 27 glass bottles (only four of which had NOT held alcohol). The white plastic in the lower left are the plastic milk jugs that recycle for 10 cents each.


Isn't he adorable? A little stuffed Simba toy! What child would throw this out a car window?

JUNE 2008

A child's purse.  

See the two $1 bills hiding in the bush? And we found a $10 bill in the leaves!
A six-foot piece of flooring A Lakers antenna flag
We have always find lots and lots and LOTS of plastic bags from the FoodMax on the corner of Meridian and Parkmoor, which is on one end of our stretch of freeway. Many of the bags are unused. Produce bags are still attached in long ribbons like the one wrapped around that palm tree on the Menker on-ramp.
This month I took photos and collected ALL the FoodMax bags we found. We plan to take them to the store and have a talk with the management.
In this month's recycling, all but two of the glass bottles were alcohol-related. Why does beer have to come in bottles? We picked up almost two Adopt-A-Highway bags full of recylcable glass, aluminum and plastic. After sorting, one entire bag was full of plastic.

MAY 2008

Six of the 9 crew members next to one pile of 11 bags, an 8-foot length of conduit, part of a wooden cabinet, and a lot of large cardboard boxes.
A inflatable toy mallet Two pair of headphones
A level in perfect condtion - we're gonna keep it!

A bible from a church in Roseville. It's in good condition, so we will send it back to the church

A knit cap that will go to charity A boy's shirt - missing the buttons.
A good-condition gym bag full of good-condition men's clothing. We may save this for our next community yard sale. About 30 feet of nylon rope in new condition.
A cloth Safeway bag. In addition to throwing out PLASTIC Safeway bags, now they are throwing out the cloth ones too!  


That's a Corona box that holds 12 bottles of beer. Look closely and you can see three bottles still full of beer. There are four more bottles of beer, plus three empties inside the box. Two more broken bottles were a few feet away. My scenario: a bunch of kids climbing over the fence to sneak a few beers late at night. Oh, no! There's someone coming! Run!
A teensy bottle of Remy Martin......     Next to a soda can.
You will have to take my word for it -- that's really a used diaper that someone tossed out a car window onto the side of Highway 280!   Someone left this plastic bucket plus two bottles of water on this ledge on the side of Highway 280 under the Bascom overcrossing.
Can you spot the skateboard in the tree?
  A broken windshield dumped on the grass beside the road.


One of the two kitchen knives we found on this section of the freeway.     A box of videotapes, mostly homemade. The box was originally full, but the top layer was scattered down the slope. It had NOT fallen off a truck -- it was 20 feet UP a slope, behind some bushes.
A page from a set of plans showing the layout of a four-bedroom, 2.5 bath, 1900+ square foot, 2-story house   On the back of this little package (about 3.5 inches square) were instructions in five languages on how to deploy the noxious gas.