Garbage in Yosemite was inspected this fall. These are the most common and strangest items found

New data provides the clearest picture to date of the thousands of pounds of trash left behind in Yosemite National Park each year—invaluable information that advocates hope will help convince federal lawmakers to ban the sale of single-use plastics systemwide. National Park.

Plastic Gatorade bottles, Camel and Marlboro cigarette butts, Nature Valley granola bar wrappers, Band-Aids and disposable paper coffee cups were among commonly found trash items scooped off the ground in Yosemite last summer, according to the 5 Gyres Institute, a Los Angeles non-profit focused on reducing plastic use worldwide.

Last year, the group encouraged travelers to submit reports of litter found while visiting the country’s national parks. That campaign drew 558 entries across 16 parks, not a huge sample to encompass the full extent of pollution and waste across the country’s 423 national park sites.

But in Yosemite, he had an ace up his sleeve: the annual Facelift trash-cleaning event, organized by the Yosemite Climbing Association, which draws thousands of volunteers to Yosemite for a five-day event every fall. From a random sampling of the 14,780 pounds of trash collected by more than 1,300 volunteers at this year’s rally, plus 88 trash items submitted during the summer months, 5 Gyres was able to paint a more representative picture of the debris that slid through the park robust garbage collection system during the high season.

Among the most common items found were cigarette butts (1,651 pounds), beverage bottles and bottle caps (1,369), clothing and fabrics (1,338), food wrappers (376), and face masks (183). Nearly 70% of the 10,450 pounds sampled during the audit were plastic.

Volunteers removed straws, hats, sunglasses, lollipop sticks, take-out containers, toothbrushes and dental floss, tampons, children’s toys, and even a couple of rubber tires. There were also oddities: a drone, a toaster oven, used condoms, an old Polaroid of a man in an “outrageous Santa suit,” and several “intimate products,” according to Andra Janieks, director of marketing at 5 Gyres. About a quarter of all garbage was classified as “miscellaneous debris”.

Most of the loot came from areas of high visitor concentration in Yosemite Valley around the village, visitor centers and campgrounds, according to Janieks. At next year’s facelift, the group hopes to electronically log the origins of every piece of trash they pick up.

“The cleanups are a last-ditch effort to protect these natural spaces,” Janieks said. “We want to use this data to work toward real change. What can we do about the stuff that actually pollutes the park so it never gets there?”

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