Debris poses a series of problems to marine life and human well-being. However, estimates of density and characteristics of debris found on beach surfaces and buried in the sand are patchy on a global scale and absent for West Africa. Here we investigate the density of surface and buried debris accumulated in two beaches with contrasting levels of urbanisation in Senegal, West Africa. We also describe type, colour, weight, size, and possible source of the 1766 items collected. The average density of debris buried at a depth of 10 cm (48.75 items/m(2)) was 25 times higher than that observed at the surface (1.92 items/m(2)). Plastics accounted for 97.62% of the items. Plastic bags and clothing plastic were the most common types, whereas white and transparent were the most common colours. Most items originated from mixed sources, i.e. beach users and land-based sources (51.30%). Debris density in the urbanised site was 20 times higher than that in the non-urbanised site. Debris density can, therefore, be largely underestimated when sampling only on the beach surface. Our study provides the first findings for future research on beach debris in Senegal. (C) 2020 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.