An environmental group that studied beach litter in Crystal Cove State Park for seven years has found less trash over time and that most debris comes from inland or is dumped onto the beach, rather than washing up from the sea.
Volunteers from Coastkeeper Orange County surveyed a 200-yard stretch of beach just south of Pelican Point. Starting in 2003, they collected trash many times a year and analyzed results. While they found everything from lobster traps to condoms, the most common items were made of plastic and came from landlubbers. Balloons and straws accounted for most the pieces of trash.
"I cringe now when I see balloons released, because I know right where it's going to end up," said Ray Hiemstra, the associate director of programs at Coastkeeper Orange County, based in Costa Mesa.
"Everybody contributes a little bit at some point," he added.
Fortunately, people have started to contribute less over the years: in 2005, the surveyors found an average of 137 pieces of debris each day they visited, while in 2008 they found and average of 65 pieces.