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Weird trash in our waterways

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Hey, you, the one who tossed the McDonald's cup out your car window: You're a loser. And so are the people who threw 20 pounds of floppy discs, 17 golf balls, 12 hair bows and 10 boxes of grits into North Carolina streams and rivers last year.

We filed open records requests with the N.C. Department of Transportation's Office of Beautification Programs for garbage removal costs, items collected and number of littering citations for the past two years. Below is a sampling of the detritus volunteers discovered as they cleaned up after litterbugs. Download the complete reports: 2008 (PDF, 805 KB), 2009 (PDF, 1.5 MB)

Last year, volunteers picked up more than a half million pounds of trash from state waterways. Another 8.7 million pounds of garbage were collected from along the highways—at a cost of $19 million in tax money.

(The amount collected decreased 40 percent from 2008 because of state budget cuts that reduced the number of inmates picking up trash on the road.)

Of that garbage, at least 3 million pounds were recycled, not including the 7,277 junk cars, 33,725 tires and 8.5 million plastic bottles.

But for all that poundage, comparatively few people were convicted of littering offenses last year: 2,208—about half of the 4,572 charged.

And did you really have to throw your thong and a turkey caller in the stream? That must have been quite a party.

Unusual finds in North Carolina waterways 2008–2010

  • Mounted deer head with antlers decomposing
  • Christmas ornaments
  • Putting tee carpet
  • Refrigerator doors
  • Motorcycle seats
  • Sewing machine
  • Pelican in balloon
  • Entangled birds in fishing line
  • Entangled bat in balloon—released alive
  • Top set of false teeth
  • Cake mixer
  • Voodoo doll
  • Rear-projection TV
  • Nativity set
  • Wooden go-cart
  • Graduation certificate
  • Explosives
  • Drugs
  • Fire hose
  • Record albums
  • 14 oil barrels
  • American flag
  • Bowling pin
  • Electric car
  • Noose
  • Piano

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