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 managed a crew of Adopt-A-Highway volunteers for 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 shut us down.
Long, long story you can read here if you want to. 

In April of 2021, we got a permit to clean a different section of highway in the San Jose area. It's not close to our home, so we won't be driving it regularly to keep an eye on it.
It is, however, wide and flat, a feature on which CalTrans and Adopt-A-Highway are insistent!

December 2021

Skip this long explanation if you already read about it elsewhere.

Last month we left piles of bags by the light poles along our section of Highway 101. There were 3 bags plus a tire at the first light pole, and 5 bags, 2 of which were filled with scraps of cardboard (someone lost a load they were transporting?), at the second pole.

We drove out this month and found those two piles had been scavenged. The two bags full of cardboard were gone and the rest of the bags had been ripped open and the contents strewn about. The tire was gone from the first pile and the bags were also ripped open.

Here’s what I think happened: Someone came by, spotted the two bags full of scrap cardboard and stopped to get them, perhaps opening the other bags to see what was in them. The tire by the first light pole was gone too. They left a mess, of course. The litter that was in the bags was strewn all around the light poles.

Then CalTrans sent out a crew to pick up the bags. Was it the next day or two weeks later? I don’t suppose it matters. It was after the scavenger(s). CalTrans picked up the six bags on the on-ramp that we left there, and the two at the end of the stretch, down by the Yerba Buena exit. The CalTrans folks saw the gutted bags and just left the mess for us to deal with in December. Nobody bothered to email me and let me know, just left it all for us to find. If I had known, I could have driven out and rebagged the trash. At least I would have had a choice.

Then, to make matters even more interesting, last week some time, the contractor's crew came out YET AGAIN, and cleaned the area up around the on-ramps. That area had obviously been freshly cleaned AGAIN (the fourth time in eight months) . The contractor's crew stopped when they got to the mess of opened bags, leaving it for us to clean up. Perhaps the ripped white Adopt-A-Highway bags reminded them that they were not supposed to clean that section. Perhaps they just didn’t want to clean up the mess. But – seriously - how much more work would it have been for them to pick up the scattered litter and ripped bag and re-bag it? That's exactly what we had to do when we got out there.


A green tote bag that we will add to our collection for farmers' markets and grocery shopping; two balls that we will leave at the local playground.   A pair of baby underwear (donated).       The bags from LAST month's pick up that were NOT picked up and someone came along and opened, strewing the contents around the pole! Aargh!   Another view of the ripped-open bags.
A pair of pink fuzzy slippers   The slippers cleaned up nicely and we will give them to a woman who is currently living in her car in the nearby church's parking lot.   The bags we left THIS month that included three bags that were what was left from LAST month's pickup.   There they are! I hope they get picked up this month!


November 2021

We got to clean our assigned section this month. A good crew filled 16 bags and found quite a lot of interesting items.

Some Pokemon cards   Four heads for a shaver.   A poster about donating to an organization in San Martin that provides a sanctuary for cows. Who knew?
A funnel. It comes in handy when you have to add oil to your car.   Two interesting face masks. The child's size is decorated with unicorns.   A dozen maxi pads. The box had come off a truck, broken open, and pads were scattered all over the side of the road.

Some packing material made from plastic bottles. It says it's 100% recyclable.... Really?   A magnetic sign that is usually stuck to the side of a car/van/truck.   A child's toothbrush. The package had once contained a tube of toothpaste, but that was run over and spread all over the inside of the packaging.

October 2021

Well, they did it AGAIN! We drove out to our section, noticed it was suspiciously clean, and found a big pile of yellow bags at the end of the section.
It's not like they didn't know we were going to clean the section on Saturday. I sent the manager an email in August with the pickup dates for September,
October, and November, and I sent a reminder email on Sunday, the week before our scheduled cleanup.

So, three of us went back to our OLD section on Highway 280 NB and cleaned Moorpark and Parkmoor, the city streets that parallel 280 there
and act as de facto on-ramps and off-ramps. They get plenty of litter! We filled 8 bags with litter and drove them down to the Menker
on-ramp, along with two tires and a bumper

An empty cannabis edibles.   Four tiny playing cards. There is a penny on the left to show the relative size.   Most of a muffin. Someone ate the top, didn't like it and threw it away? Someone ate the top and dropped it?
A hang-up toy of a character from the movie Soul.   The same toy after washing. The sparkles showed up nicely!  

A child's vest. No tears or fading. We washed and donated it.

September 2021

A camo mask (so nobody will see your nose and mouth when you are wearing it?)   A box of empty beer bottles. So considerate of them to leave them in the box for easy pickup!   Another box of empty beer, this time in cans. Actually, there were two that still had beer in them.
A cute pink fluffy toy bear. Sabine is good and finding this lost babies. We have found dozens over the years, cleaned them, and donated them to the local fire station to give to kids at a fire scene.   An advertisement for Laura the Healer, Fortune Teller, Palm Reader and Tarot Card Reader. And you don't pay unless you get results - what a deal!    

August 2021

At first we thought we'd found a bit of color, that a flowering plant had managed to survive on a dry section of highway. Nope - plastic.   We found gobs of this stuff spread out over 100 yards, clinging to bushes, weeds, grass and bits of litter. We thought it was an odd color of insulation.   Then we found the gutted pillow with some of the stuffing coming out of it. There was stuffing for several pillows, but this was the only one we found.
A plastic bag with four (moldy) peaches inside.   We found many dozens of crushed and cracked plastic Baskin-Robbins cups on this stretch. Far too many for customers to be tossing them out windows when they finished their drink.   We suspect it was a supplier that lost a load of these cups from a truck or van.

July 2021


Someone beat us to it and cleaned our newly adopted section AGAIN - a couple of days before we were scheduled to go out! This happened back in May and we were told it wouldn't happen again. Well, obviously, it did.

We got to the work area on time and notice it seemed suspiciously clean! "Hmmm," we wondered, "did someone recently clean this area?" We drove along the freeway and -- sure enough -- there was a nice pile of bright yellow CalTrans bags! (first picture below).

Trash warriors on a mission are not to be thwarted! We went back to our old section on Highway 280. Because we are not allowed to clean the freeway itself, four of us cleaned Moorpark and Parkmoor between Leigh Avenue and Bascom Avenue. These two streets run parallel to 280, one on the north, one on the south, and act as de facto on-ramps and off-ramps. They hadn't been cleaned in at least six months, and they get a LOT of traffic and a lot of last-minute dumping. Sometimes it's the empty beer can so the evidence isn't in the car, sometimes it's the cigarette pack from which the last cigarette has been taken and -- hey, you don't need that hanging around your car, do you? So the four of us filled nine bags with trash and filled about half a bag with recyclable aluminum cans and plastic or glass bottles. I drove them down onto 280 to be picked up by CalTrans.


The pile of bags on our newly adopted section -- cleaned by some other crew a day or two before we were scheduled to work.   The pile of bags we filled. We cleaned streets paralle to 280, but drove them down to the freeway to be picked up by CalTrans   A $10 bill waiting for us to find it!
A tin of hair gel, about 1/3 full of the gel.   A teeny tiny yellow soccer ball. The coins (which Pam found) are to show the relative size.    


We've never found a bottle like this one! We find little Buzzballz all the time, but this one is huge -- 1.75 liters! Lime juice, lemon juice, and tequila with a kicker of vodka. ( sells for $19.99 at BevMo.)

$20 for a plastic bottle of booze! I guess with that top, it's not designed to be chug-a-lugged...


June 2021


We skipped the pickup scheduled for May because the wires at CalTrans got crossed and a contracted company picked up our section the week before we were scheduled to go out. Ooops. They promised it would not happen again.

We took our crew out in June and found a few interesting items. This section is about 1/3 the size of our previous section, so we are finding less trash and fewer oddities. Below is a sample

A sweet satin drawstring bag   A pink baseball hat   An unusual necklace.
It looks like a skirt, but there are two legs.   A cushion for fruit. It was so clean! It must have been tossed very recently.   There had been a grass fire. We found what was probably the source of the fire and the remains of a camp. Presecription medicine bottles, half-full jars of mayo and peanut butter, a tin of diced chicken, melted deodorant, etc.


We thought we'd found a $100 bill ! Sadly, we were wrong.. Looking closely in the lower left corner, you could see the word: "THIS NOTE IS NOT LEGAL; IT IS TO BE USED FOR MOTION PICTURES." It also felt a little thick to be a real bill.


May 2021 - Some cleaned our section some time during the week before we were schedules to go out. It's not like I di
It's not like I didn't provide the manager with the dates we were going to go out. It's not like I didn't send an email reminder
the week before. Aaargh!

April 2021 - We're baaaack!


These were taken after our maiden voyage, our first time on the newly-adopted section of Highway 101. The section had been cleaned about two weeks before, so it was less of a mess than we were used to, and there were not a lot of interesting items to share. In addition to the items below, we found parts of a child's play plastic structure and some tools.


A zippered bag. It had a few small tears in it that were easily repaired. We donated it.   A lemon? Well, there were no lemon trees anywhere in sight, though there was a peach tree on the other side of the soundwall, and it was too fresh to have been left by a long-gone encampment. It will remain a mystery.    


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

Photos from 2020
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