In all, more than 4,000 volunteers turned in data cards from an April sweep and an October sweep that accounted for 252,427 pieces of trash weighing about 34 tons.
About 1,000 additional volunteers picked up trash on those two days, but did not turn in a record of their findings, Totah said.
The 1999 sweeps also turned up 20,978 plastic food bags, 12,510 straws, 392 shotgun shells, 270 condoms, 239 tires, 106 syringes, 79 cigar tips, 19 unopened bottles of beer, and a pregnancy test (results unknown).
Last year, cigarette butts - the filters, actually - also topped the list, at 27,204. The so-called New Jersey "Dirty Dozen" remained relatively stable from last year. The 12 items most frequently collected and recorded last year were, in order, cigarette filters, plastic food bags, Styrofoam pieces, plastic pieces, plastic caps and lids, plastic straws, plastic bottles, paper pieces, non-food plastic bags, glass bottles, metal cans and glass pieces.
Those items accounted for about 68 percent of the entire trash haul, according to Totah.
Plastic debris of all kinds accounted for the bulk of stuff collected - 56 percent in the spring and 70 percent in the fall, after the summer season. This has been of particular concern to environmentalists because plastic items cause the biggest problems for marine animals, from entanglement or ingestion, Totah said. More than 80 percent of the entanglements of marine animals reported in the United States involve plastic items.
During the spring cleanup, a raccoon was found entangled in fishing line, Totah said. The Marine Mammal Stranding Center reported the deaths of nine marine animals from entanglement, including four common dolphins, three harbor porpoises, a green turtle, and a northern right whale that was spotted six miles off Stone Harbor, entangled in fishing gear.
Also yesterday, a coalition of 14 environmental and fishing groups announced a new Ocean Protection Action Plan in response to what the groups called "an increasing new wave of egregious proposals that will destroy ocean habitats." The groups have been alarmed by renewed ocean dumping and strip-mining, and disposal of dredged materials in federal waters.
Clean Ocean Action, which began the annual statewide beach cleanups in 1991, is planning its spring Beach Sweep for April 16. There are 13 locations in Atlantic and Cape May Counties where volunteers can meet to pick up data cards. For more information, contact Clean Ocean Action at 609-729-9262. The Web site is www.CleanOceanAction.org