A dirty job: Cigarette butts dominate trash found on beaches | TahoeDailyTribune.com

A dirty job: Cigarette butts dominate trash found on beaches

Gregory Crofton, Tahoe Daily Tribune

The feds showed up Saturday to pick up trash from El Dorado Beach.

Mike Ardito, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chemical preparedness coordinator for California, Nevada and Hawaii, said he was in town for a reunion of high school friends from Marin County and decided to come down to the beach to volunteer for Coastal Cleanup Day.

“In a matter of a few minutes I’ve found about 15 cigarette butts,” Ardito, 50, said.

The cleanup day resulted in more than 1,300 pounds of trash and recyclables getting picked up from about 20 miles worth of beaches, streams and meadows in three hours. That’s a lot less than the 4,300 pounds collected last year. This year Clean Tahoe, which organizes the effort at South Shore, said 200 schoolchildren who worked last year didn’t come out this year. Plus there was competition for volunteers because Saturday was also the League to Save Lake Tahoe’s Forest Stewardship Day, said Joann Eisenbrandt, program assistant for Clean Tahoe.

Divers working off the Tahoe Keys found an expensive watch still working even though it was not waterproof. One of the 111 people who volunteered also turned up a box that contained a telephone and canned food. People also found wax and casings from unspent fireworks, Eisenbrandt said. But overall, cigarette butts were the most common find. One group of three collected 500 of them off a beach near Stateline.

“We did find a pair of socks that matched,” said Jeanine Rolfe, 25, of South Lake Tahoe, who plucked trash from the beach with her mother.

Dennis McGuire, 38, of South Lake Tahoe, was one of about eight people in the El Dorado County Jail’s work-release program who combed for trash in a dry meadow at the corner of Tamarack Avenue and Blackwood Road. The crew found a chair, couch and large, wire-rack shelves in the meadow.

“I’m proud of what I’m doing,” McGuire said. “I’m concerned about the environment. When I go camping I always pack out my trash and other people’s trash. My mother didn’t raise a fool.”

Coastal Cleanup Day, started by the California Coastal Commission in 1984, no longer happens just near the ocean. It moved inland and became an international event. In 2003, the event was organized in all 50 states and 100 countries. In California last year, volunteers collected 861,000 pounds of trash, nearly 150,000 pounds of which was recycled.

–Gregory Crofton can be reached at gcrofton@tahoedailytribune.com or at (530) 542-8045.

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