Volunteers from throughout Los Angeles County joined together Saturday, Sept. 17 to pick up a record 22 tons of debris from beaches, parks, creeks, lakes, highways and alleys as part of the 27th annual Coastal Cleanup Day, according to the Santa Monica-based environmental organization Heal the Bay.

At 65 sites throughout the county, 10,964 volunteers took part in the effort to rid their neighborhoods and waterways of 44,038 pounds of trash, a Heal the Bay spokesperson said. The Los Angeles area campaign is part of a global cleanup event led by the Ocean Conservancy, recognized as the world’s biggest 24-hour volunteer event.

In addition to county beaches, the cleanup stretched across inland areas, as an estimated 80 percent of the litter that ends up in the ocean starts out on land, the Heal the Bay spokesperson noted.

Coastal Cleanup Day volunteers in Los Angeles County have collected more than 1.5 million pounds of debris since 1990’s inaugural event. Cigarette butts consistently top the list of items found at cleanups, with plastic bags and Styrofoam also ranking high.

“Coastal Cleanup Day 2011 volunteers collected a record amount of trash today,” said Eveline Bravo, Heal the Bay’s beach programs manager. “It’s a remarkable day of action but we hope that the experience provides a lifetime of education about how to protect our oceans and neighborhoods.”

There was an expansion of the SCUBA and kayak sites this year, with dive teams hunting for trash below the surface at several sites, including the Santa Monica Pier, and kayakers gliding through Marina del Rey and Ballona Creek waters, removing trash along the way.

A water-damaged but fully intact wallet resting on the sea-floor that contained $6 and a driver’s license, which was found by SCUBA divers near the Santa Monica Pier, was among the most interesting items retrieved on Coastal Cleanup Day. Additional unusual objects recovered included a World War I-era, khaki-green gas mask at the Santa Monica Pier dive site and the front panel of a small safe at Toes Beach in Playa del Rey.

As a bonus to volunteers, Coastal Cleanup Day sponsor Ford Motor Co. offered those at the Dockweiler State Beach site in Playa del Rey test drives of its 2011 models and donated $50 to Heal the Bay for every test drive taken.

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