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?

CalTrans Adopt-A-Highway shut us down!

As most of you know, Sabine and I have managed a crew of Adopt-A-Highway volunteers for the past 16+ years, cleaning a section of Highway 280 NB between Meridian and Saratoga. After filling more than 5000 bags of trash, 514 bags of recycling, and finding almost $2500 in bills and coins, the CalTrans Adopt-A-Highway supervisor has shut us down

The current Adopt-A-Highway supervisor has pulled our permit because, per CalTrans regulations, we are not allowed to work along any highway were there is more than a 40 degree slope.  This regulation has evidently been in effect the entire time we’ve been working on this area, but the current AAH supervisor suddenly decided to enforce it.  If you have driven Highway 280 (as well as Highway 85 and Highway 87) you probably know that the vast majority of these roads are either above or below the level of the city streets and the roadways have slopes going up or down on either side. All of those sections are off-limits and cannot be cleaned by volunteers – only by CalTrans employees and paid contractors

I tried talking to the Adopt-A-Highway supervisor, but he will allow us to work only on sections that are flat, ignoring the litter piling up everywhere else. This means that most of the volunteer organizations that currently have adopted sections of our local highways will also be shut down in the near future.  If you think the litter problem has been bad up to now, wait until the Elks Club, the IBM Retirees, and other volunteer organizations are forced off their sections.

We have had at least six different supervisors in 16 years and not a single one mentioned that we were cleaning an area that was unsafe.  CalTrans workers picked up the bags we left out and they could see the areas we cleaned, but nobody said anything.  Nobody – in 16+ years. All of that counted for nothing.

You cannot imagine how very upset -- angry, frustrated, and heart-broken – Sabine and I are about having to stop cleaning our section.  We know, from the condition of the roads in Santa Clara County, that Caltrans doesn’t have the time or person-power to keep the highways clean, so we are dreading the mess we’ll see every time we get on the freeway. 

But it’s more than that. We’re going to miss the satisfaction that comes from cleaning a particularly dirty stretch of road.  We’ll miss finding all our “treasures.”  We will miss the after-pick-up lunches (pre-COVID).  But, most of all, we’re going to miss working with you, our loyal, hard-working volunteers.  Thank you for all the time and energy you’ve given our Trash Team all these years.   You’ve helped make a difference and we thank you!

(Of course, if anything changes, I’ll let you know.)

Well - things did change! Look here Photos from 2021 !

December 2020

We had never seen or heard of this odd tool before. We had to do some internet research to figure out what it: a cakebreaker!   Another strange find. We assume it is part of a costumer, probably for Halloween. We are going to plant it in our front garden along side the several doll heads we've found over the years. (Yes, we have a creepy front yard.)   $930 -- in Monopoly money. We find real money out on the highway too. As of December 2020, we have found almost $2500 in 16 years, including (believe it or not) nine $100 bills.
A mug with the perfect message for 2020!   This baseball isn't all that rare. We have found several in the many years we have been out on the highways.   A funnel



Left are two toys we found on the roadside, before and after a bath.

People have asked what we do with all the stuffed animals and toys we find. We have kept a few of them, primarily the ones with missing eys or ones we've had to seriously repair. They live on the bed in our guest room.


Once a year we collect the ones that are in good shape and take them to a local fire station. They are given to children whose families are burned out of their homes.

November 2020

Small stuffed bumblebee toy (before)   Small stuffed bumblebee toy (after washing). We donate all the stuffed toys we find.   Hell Bank Note. Read more about them here. In 16 years of cleaning the highway, it's the first one we have ever found.
Dog toyy (with two squeekers!)   Dog toy after washing!   A lightbulb. It was broken on the inside but remarkable intact other than that. The first we have every found.
A collection of four paper flowers found at four different locations on the 280   Four passports. One was by itself. The other three were in a wallet (nothing else in the wallet). We will take them to the passport office on Meridian.   Purple tennies. A small rip in one, but otherwise in good shape. We donated them.
A sparkly butterfly patch.   A pair of gloves for a motorcyclist. We found them on two separate sections of the highway about 1/4 mile apart.   What a cutie!



        This is another 'first find' -- a plastic water bottle stuffed with used syringes and epi pens. I suppose we should be grateful the syringes and pens weren't tossed out individually.


October 2020

Small stuffed toy (before)   Small stuffed toy (after washing)   Small coin purse?
What I thought was a cube.....   ... had a lid   An unopened roll of mounting tape
A face mask (washed and donated)   Play money (darn!)   Found: $5 bill, $1 bill, coins
An half-full can of Rustoleum   By the time we pulled 50 yards of this twine off the roadway, it made a ball that filled our bag a third of the way!   A vice and a length of heavy chain with hooks on each end.
A doll head (Elvis Presley?). We have a collection of small doll heads, all of which we found on the freeway, on skewers, in our front garden.   An olive tree loaded with black olives!   Hubba-hubba! A pill to increase a man's time, size, and stamina. But be careful!

September 2020

Field before   The same field after cleaning   A brown bandana

The curve of the off-ramp. What you can't see is all the litter stuck in and under the bushes!

  The same curve after cleaning   A bright pink bra (with the tag!)


August 2020

A large fleece blanket. We will wash it and donate it   An American flag scarf, possible one designed to be a COVID-19 mask.   A length of decorative ribbon.
Two golf balls   A triangular hazard warning device.   A keyboard

July 2020

Sabie and I did sessions in July which netted these items. We were carefully joined by two volunteers with their own gear, each driving his own car. It really made a difference how much we could clean!
An odd assortment of metal that we think probably created an ornamental border for a garden.   Nice pink jacket, too small for either of us, so we will donate it.   A pretty worn, but serviceable pair of tennis shoes. We wll donate them.
A dollar bill, just waiting for someone to come along and claim it   A basket for a local store (we returned it) and two buckets (we kept them).   CO2 cartridges - lots of them. There more, but we'd put a dozen or so in the trash bag before we realized how many there would be -- and that we'd find the box they came in.
We found a bunch of those Space Saver bags! A package of four sells for $33. Made coming out to pick up trash a pretty good deal!    
Before and After        

Still keeping track of the gloves and masks, adding the three weeks we picked up litter in July. Plastic bags are much more prevalent, of course, because grocery stores in particular could not allow shoppers to use their own bags, requiring single-use plastic bags. So plastic bags are back and we're littering with gloves and masks.

May-June 2020
Sabine and I were allowed to go out alone and work together because we are a family unit. We cleaned one portion of our section of 280
one day each week for seven weeks, four times in May and three times in June.   The new litter? Gloves and masks!

Three photos of gloves we picked over the course of the seven weeks . We picked up a total of 274 gloves during our six of our seven trips to pick up litter.
Some photos of the masks we picked up.... a total of 57 over the course of seven weeks. Of course I keep track of these things! We didn't count them the first week because we were not yet aware of the problem or how many we would find; I started counting the second time we went out.

Three of the four jackets we found during our May/June pickups. All were in remarkably good shapes, so we donated them.  


We also found a nice set of goggles and a scarf that appears to advertise a restaurant/bar in Bolivia!


March and April 2020 - No pickups  

February 2020

A child's basketball jersey  

Another jersey. It still had the Marshall's tag on it, and was missing the two top buttons -- which may be why it was discarded. Both jersey were washed and donated.

An orange. We found a tangerine too.   The remains of a plaster skull.   A Peruvian flag. It was pretty grimy, but most of the dirt came out in the wash. We donated it.

Checks belonging to Prepared Staffing, LLC. We contacted the owner who explained that his car had been broken into and his company's checkbook stolen. He was glad at least these checks won't be coming back to haunt him. He wrote down the numbers and we shreded the checks.  

We have no idea what these are. They are plastic and they have no markings on them that we could see.

ADDED 2/1720: Rene P., an eagle-eyed reader of our trash reports knew exactly what these are: agility training cones, often used by soccer coaches to set up drills on the field. Thanks, Rene!

  Our crew with the 12 bags we filled at The Alameda exit on Highway 880 NB

January 2020

A bicycle seat.   Spray cans of chemicals used in automobile detailing.     A metal pot. It's too damaged to be used for cooking, but I can find a use for it in my garden.
A tiny child's sandal - only one.   A tiny plastic figure. It's a small miracle anyone spotted this, because it's about the size of dollar coin.   Two hats. After some clean-up, we will donate them.

Yes, it's rusty, but it still works, so it will be cleaned up and either used or donated.   A box of tools. They were not in the box to start with. They were scattered all over the road at the site of a crash. Somebody's tool chest split opened and spilled its contents ( probably worth over $100), and nobody bothered to pick them up after clearing the crash.   A small portion of the Botts Dots we found. The orange one is pretty rare. I have dozens of these if anyone wants them for an art project!


A model helicopter! It's very delicate, so it's a amazing that it's not damaged. How in the world did it wind up on the side of the freeway?

  A metal dish, pretty disgusting when we found it, but...   ... it cleaned up nicely. We may use for a pet dish.


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

Photos from 2019
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