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Inauguration Garbage!

By Karina | January 26, 2009

inaugurationgarbage.jpgWhen I was at the Inauguration last week, there was something that you just couldn’t miss – the huge amounts of litter everywhere. As my inauguration partner said: Wouldn’t it have been great if President Obama could have ended his speech with a call to pick up one piece of trash on our way off the mall?” One of the problems was the scarcity of garbage cans – either they just didn’t expect so much trash, or (as the case in NYC after September 11th) the cans were removed because of security reasons.

Before inauguration, there were some posts out there on the internet asking people to take their trash with them – this PSA is excellent, for example, and here is a follow-up from the same group (LitterFree Inauguration) pointing out that trash cans were filled 2 days before the inauguration already!  But I didn’t hear anything about it until I was researching this post! Here is a video of the mall after the inauguration, and you can see that between the dust and wind and garbage, it pretty much resembled a wasteland. And while my vantage point was not ideal, I didn’t see any notes to ask the participants to take their waste with them – not even during the infomercial we watched after the ceremony celebrating the National Mall and asking us to support them financially.

gloves.jpgThere were also a lot of lost gloves and scarves and hats out there. After the ceremony people discarded their blankets and extra warming materials on the mall and walked off – I wished there were a way to collect all of these winter clothes and blankets, wash them off, and repurpose them for the local homeless population! Instead I’m afraid they all went to the dump.

According to the Washington Post, at least 130 tons of garbage was hauled away after the inauguration. Even for a crowd of roughly 1.8 million people, that’s a lot of garbage per person. I can safely say that I packed out everything that I brought in, and boy, I wish that everyone else did too. Maybe next time around the inaugural president can take a few minutes and remind us all to hey, pick up a little around us.

Were you at this inauguration or another similar large event? What did you to do help stop the littering problem?

Topics: Waste | 11 Comments »

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Comment by Jenn (Tiny Choices)
2009-01-26 07:59:50

I remember being at a huge Earth Day event in Central Park many years ago, and was shocked (shocked!) by the astounding amount of trash left behind by all the revelers. it was one of the most incongruous things I’d ever seen.

Comment by ck
2009-01-26 09:12:13

Not exactly the same, but I recall being in Pamplona for the running of the bulls (back in the ’90s), where the streets are all super narrow and jam-packed with people almost 24 hours a day. The bulls run at 8am for about 4 minutes and most people then either head to the bull ring for further festivities, or to bars for breakfast, drinks, or places to pass out for a while.

The garbage in the streets is literally ankle to calf deep…giving the feel of a bizarre snowstorm. During this lull, the town drives their fleet of garbage trucks through and does a massive scoop up.

They actually had to add grilles akin to cowcatchers they used to use on old trains in the US, because they had incidents where revelers had passed out drunk and got buried in the trash, which the garbage trucks were unable to see and ran them over.

I can’t imagine how they can accommodate for that volume of trash in that short a time, 10 days in a row. An interesting puzzle though!

Comment by A~
2009-01-26 10:37:06

Thank you for sharing this behind the scene information.
The pictures you show are reality of how people think.
They want change but aren’t willing to start with the common sense easy things?

Comment by Karina
2009-01-29 12:20:36

I think it shows how there needs to be a partnership – it’s easy to blame people for not throwing things away responsibly, but when there weren’t enough (or any) garbage cans available it’s much more difficult to do so. plus in all fairness the high winds from the day swept garbage away from over-filled cans and spread it all around.

Comment by Lorraine
2009-01-26 14:24:48

Isn’t it just common sense to take your trash with you? I wasn’t brought up to just leave my trash on the floor… I was taught to pick up after myself. I don’t know why people should need to be reminded of that fact…

Comment by Jay Alt
2009-01-27 16:07:40

That’s a lot of garbage per person

It’s clearly too much trash. But is it really ‘a lot?’
It’s slightly more than 2 oz/person.

Comment by Blue
2009-01-29 12:06:58

A harbinger for the next 4 years — the trashing of America by those who foolishly believe Obama and liberal socialism is the answer.

Comment by Karina
2009-01-29 15:41:10

Gosh, forgive me for saying so, but so maudlin! Blue, don’t be down. maybe it will be 8 years and not just 4!

Comment by Matt
2009-01-30 17:08:43

I had a pretty good seat for the event (we were even with the east end of the Air and Space Museum) as far as non-ticketed people go. After the benediction my little group walked up to see how far forward we could get.

This walked explained the lack of trash cans to me.

Like many big events, they set up “disposable” or “temporary” garbage receptacles which were essentially cardboard boxes. (Not really all that ‘green’ per se, but somewhat expected.) Many, many of these boxes were taken apart, flattened and used as insulation against the cold ground by people who showed up real early. (I don’t really know when they showed up, but they had great seats.) In one case they had actually taken two cans and made a wind shelter out of them that they could sit in.

So it wasn’t really a lack of prep work by the people who set up the event but rather just that people in general are actually worse than you thought. Luckily there were people who knew there would be trash and were prepared to spend the afternoon picking it up. Good on them!

2009-01-31 11:10:24

[...] propriety of the group left a black mark on both the day, and his supporters (not to mention the 130 tons of garbage left behind [...]

2009-02-01 06:01:13

[...] Inauguration Garbage! [...]


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