Before the New Year's ball falls, noisemakers blow, and confetti flies, the New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY) prepares for the monstrous cleanup ahead. Garbage trucks are ready to roll, and workers arm themselves with push brooms, shovels, and other hand tools as the party goes on.
New York City is famous for its New Year's Eve celebrations, where swarms of revelers produce noise and garbage in equally astounding amounts. On Dec. 31, 2005, 1 million celebrators produced 37 tons of waste—approximately 13½ pounds of trash per person. It cost the city $32,000 to clean up.
New York City hosts several other less famous—but still significant—events throughout the year, including parades on St. Patrick's Day and Columbus Day. The most recent events produced 46 tons and 23 tons of trash, respectively. The city's cleanup crews range from as few as a half dozen for smaller events to 40 to 60 workers staged throughout a 24-hour period.
Work often starts before the parade, which can be up to 40 blocks long. Bernard Sullivan, chief of cleaning, says DSNY pre-cleans the area. Participants often feed into the parade from lower streets, further expanding the cleanup area. Workers are stationed at the launching points so they can begin the process immediately using various pieces of equipment.
Large events such as the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade call for mechanical street sweepers. DSNY owns 450 street sweepers that cover 6000 miles of road daily. Regular push brooms and backpack blowers push debris off the sidewalk and onto the curb so the sweepers can then collect it.
Although the city encourages recycling, it isn't often a part of large-event cleanup. “At large parades with thousands of participants and millions of spectators, just about everything out there is contaminated or not eligible for recycling,” says Sullivan. “We dispose of it all as trash.” However, he adds, at smaller events such as street fairs or block parties, recycling is strongly encouraged.
In his years with DSNY, Sullivan finds cleanup is most effective when he communicates with the organizers beforehand. For example, Times Square has an active business improvement district that distributes noisemakers and other party favors. “We get an idea as to what they may be giving out and how that might impact our cleanup,” says Sullivan. “They work very well with us in advance so that we don't encounter too many problems.” Sullivan also mentions some smaller tips, such as supplying enough trash receptacles to minimize windblown litter.
ON THE OFFENSIVE
Morgantown, W.Va., with a population of 27,000 and home of West Virginia University, is busy with cleanup, especially during the football season. Home games typically sell out the 65,000-seat stadium. Terry Hough, public works director/city engineer, and Bill Rumble, assistant public works director, expect those numbers to grow after this past year's Sugar Bowl win.
Most trash-producing events are held on university property where the university cleans it up, but the public works department cleans what spills over to streets and private properties. Morgantown owns one street sweeper and one street flusher, both of which run after events, weather permitting. “Up to six crews of two men to a crew and a dump truck go out after events and pick up debris that's too large for machines to get,” says Rumble.
The collected trash is hauled to a city garage facility. “We take it all and dump it on a paved pad that has a concrete back-wall,” says Rumble. “After we're sure it's wet, we load it into roll-off Dumpsters provided by the trash hauler and it's taken to a certified landfill.”