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Inauguration Cleanup Effort Underway

On the day after America’s biggest yard party, it was all about the monumental cleanup.

The city’s trash trucks have already hauled away 90 tons of inaugural garbage with at least 40 more tons left to go, said Mafara Hobson, spokeswoman for D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D).

“People left behind a lot of trash. A lot of it was the vendors along the parade route, too,” Hobson said. “They left behind Obama hats, Obama bags, Obama socks.”

On the grounds of the Mall, the cleanup began about 8 p.m. yesterday, when dozens of volunteers for the U.S. Park Service headed to the grassy expanse with garbage bags and picked up trash throughout the night, said Park Service spokesman Bill Line.

By this morning, hundreds of thousands of spent hand warmers were gone, the bottles, cans and various wrappers thrown away were picked up and only giant flocks of birds were left to feast on the bonanza of high-protein snack crumbs left behind by well over a million people who came to watch the inauguration of President Obama.

The skeletons of Jumbotrons and speaker towers were being dismantled as workers negotiated the summer vacation-sized tour groups who stayed behind to take in the Mall’s sights in less crowded circumstances.

In downtown Washington, commuters returning to work negotiated the moving vans double-parked and filling with tables and chairs. Workers on office building rooftops and in parks dismantled the white tents, which collapsed like so many ruined souffles.

By Petula Dvorak

By David A Nakamura  |  January 21, 2009; 1:26 PM ET  | Category:  In the Community
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The FOLLOWERS left trash? Say it ain't so. Oh, I guess they were providing job security for those who had to pick it up.

Posted by: justhere | January 21, 2009 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Way to start off the era of responsibility my fellow Americans, by littering and leaving 130 tons of garbage on the National Mall. Thanks tourists, don't come back now hear?

Posted by: AngryLiberal | January 21, 2009 3:09 PM | Report abuse

I thought all those liberal hippies were all about leaving nothing but footprints and respecting Mother Gaia. I guess it's OK when you do it for a good reason.

Posted by: twasneva | January 21, 2009 3:13 PM | Report abuse

On the day after America’s biggest yard party, it was all about the monumental cleanup.

The city’s trash trucks have already hauled away 90 tons of inaugural garbage with at least 40 more tons left to go, said Mafara Hobson, spokeswoman for D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D).

Ah, typical liberals. Blast everyone about their carbon footprint and how they're trashing mother Earth, and yet THEY'RE the ones who left 130 tons of trash behind. Way to set the example Democrats!!!!!

Posted by: WildBill1 | January 21, 2009 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Among the discarded items:

Chimpie was seen to crumple up the constitution and bill of rights and toss them out the window of his helicopter now that he has finished abusing them.

Posted by: Heerman532 | January 21, 2009 3:14 PM | Report abuse

There were not enough trash receptacles to accommodate the almost 2 million people at the mall. Trash was piled nice and neatly at the few receptacles that were available. When the crowds dispersed and the winds picked up, trash was blown across the mall area. There was little to no trash on the ground during the inauguration. It is unfair to take a picture of the events at its worst point and insinuate that it was that way during the event.

Posted by: SPUD2 | January 21, 2009 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Ok, not to defend the people that littered. HOWEVEr, I live int he area, and was out there....there were hundreds of portapotties and zero extra trash cans. The trash cans that are always there were burried under mounds of garbage that people tried to get in them. So this was poor planning.

Posted by: cambel1 | January 21, 2009 3:25 PM | Report abuse

SPUD2 is right. There never are enough trash cans on the Mall for big events, going back to the 60s at least. All the trash cans along the reflecting pool for the Sun. concert were overwhelmed and overflowing. When the cans were overflowing, people just gave up and dropped their trash on the ground.

So the issue is: Why not add lots of trash cans for big events? Is it a security issue?

Posted by: 1observer | January 21, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

I was disgusted by the middle school group in bright orange scarves in front of us who just left their torn plastic bags (originally intended as seats) all over the area. They packed it in, they can pack it out -- lack of trash cans is hardly a valid excuse.

Posted by: random-adam | January 21, 2009 3:36 PM | Report abuse

So, the Kool-Aid (TM) drinkers have a service day cleaning up on Martin Luther King's birthday, but leave 130 tons of trash on the Mall on inauguration day. This is change I cannot believe in!

Posted by: Bitter_Bill | January 21, 2009 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Agreed Random-adam. If the trash cans are full, you carry your trash out until you find one that isn't. You don't just leave it on the ground -- even near the trash can. It's not like EMPTY water bottles are heavier than the FULL water bottles that they brought in. Not even commenting on the used handwarmers (thanks for adding the chemicals to our dumps).

Posted by: epjd | January 21, 2009 3:47 PM | Report abuse

There was a ton of trash around where I was standing, between 7th and 12th on the mall. The people around me did not appear to even try to dispose of their refuse properly. They just left it (including dirty blankets, newspapers, food wrappers, drink containers, etc) in a pile where they were standing. People are just lazy; there is no other way to describe it.

Yes, there were too few trash cans. However, since when does the lack of a trash can mean that throwing your trash on the ground is all right? I spent Monday morning fishing trash out of the Potomac. Thanks to lazy tourists, I can spend next year's day of service doing the same thing!

Posted by: astronomer | January 21, 2009 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Any word if they found Cheney's "WMD" files? No! See, there never were any!

Posted by: NotBubba | January 21, 2009 3:55 PM | Report abuse

The volume of trash was pretty staggering but a bunch of people stayed behind and were picking it up. I and my friends joined in for a spell while waiting for the crowd to thin out. there were almost no trash cans. I dont know why they couldn't have gotten those cardboard box receptacles like the ones they use at the pride parade and other events.

Posted by: niello8 | January 21, 2009 4:11 PM | Report abuse


It is a wonder that this story is even in the post.


Posted by: ignoranceisbliss | January 21, 2009 4:30 PM | Report abuse

As a Washingtonian I am thrilled about the way that our city hosted this Monumental Inauguration! The complaints people can come up with now are just examples of once again not being able to please everyone all the time!
Garbage is an issue any time that many people come together for something like this... it's hardly a liberal or conservative issue. I was in the Silver ticketed standing area immediately adjacent to the Capitol Reflecting Pool and I saw several people picking up garbage as they went out.
Regardless of the criticism... DC hosted this Inauguration with simple class full of Pomp and Circumstance approrpriate to the Dignity of the Office of the President of the United States.
How amazing to live here and be a part of this. How exciting that so many others, Americans and non-Americans alike got to stand in our great city, America's Hometown, and experience this with us.
God Bless America and no amount of garbage left behind will make me feel any other way!

Posted by: RGator | January 21, 2009 4:32 PM | Report abuse

Let no trash be left behind.

Posted by: Bitter_Bill | January 21, 2009 4:42 PM | Report abuse

But it is an issue. The new president makes express call for more civic-mindedness. Whoopin' and hollerin' audience thought they were talking just about the previous adminsitration.

Charity begins at home, and cleaning up after yourself would have been step one of a new America.

Posted by: jhtlag1 | January 21, 2009 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Let's see, at 130 tons at 2000 pounds a ton and 16 ounces a pound, 1.8 million people left 2.31 ounces per person. Oh, and that includes all the trash that was put in trash cans, any trash that entrepreneurial vendors left behind.

Compare that to the 4.6 pounds the average American household produces each day and you can easily say that the Inauguration-goers actually had quite a light footprint. http://www.learner.org/interactives/garbage/intro.html

We did learn one thing though. that people like to say stupid things and fight in the little boxes the internet provides. Sheesh.

Posted by: 9thando | January 21, 2009 4:44 PM | Report abuse

I have no choice but to blame this on Bush one last final time.

Posted by: matrox | January 21, 2009 4:48 PM | Report abuse

Compare the 2.3 ounzes per person to the residue the Anti-Womens-Health marchers, with all their out-of-school children, will leave on the Mall tomorrow. The entrances to our museums will be good place to witness how much they care about anything but their neuroses. (Inside the museums, they won't be looking at anything beyond toilets and doorknobs.)

Posted by: SydneyP | January 21, 2009 4:59 PM | Report abuse

If crowd estimates of 1.2 million people on the mall are accurate, 130 tons amounts to about 3 1/2 ounces per person. Not so dramatic, I wouldn't think.

Posted by: officermancuso | January 21, 2009 5:04 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for noticing. Watching this historic event on the computer screen several states away, my colleagues and I were immediately saddened by the sight of the trash abandoned by the dispersing crowd only minutes after the same crowd applauded the call to citizen responsibility and our beautiful country. That unforgettable picture of this historic day will stay with us. The picture is also the silent message to our President and his team that the citizenry may need a little training is this new responsible behavior. For example, had the Chair given just a small clean up prompt at the end of the program, the amount of litter would likely have been reduced substantially. With fines for littering, the Mall might have been left clean.

Posted by: NCreader2 | January 21, 2009 5:07 PM | Report abuse

this is all obummer's fault

Posted by: charlietuna666 | January 21, 2009 5:14 PM | Report abuse

officermancuso: If crowd estimates of 1.2 million people on the mall are accurate, 130 tons amounts to about 3 1/2 ounces per person. Not so dramatic, I wouldn't think.


And yet, it was dramatic! Many people left immediately following President Obama's address, and before the poem or benediction. I stayed until the end, so got to see the mall's condition. The total sum of trash that was blowing around was pretty remarkable, even if the per person amount was small.

I just have to wonder what is wrong with people who litter indiscriminately. I was on the mall for ~6.5 hours, and packed my trash out when I was finished (which amounted to a few used tissues and a granola wrapper). The newspapers and abandoned blankets were particularly bad (newspapers because they blow; blankets because it was clear that they were left intentionally).

The same people who 'trashed' the mall also trashed the grounds of the Dept of Ag. by walking over the ground cover plants and bushes instead of using the sidewalk. I assume similar behavior went on at other locations as well.

Posted by: astronomer | January 21, 2009 5:31 PM | Report abuse

John Roberts Jr. should be required to write the President's oath of office 10000 times.

Posted by: lamplighter035 | January 21, 2009 5:45 PM | Report abuse

The FOLLOWERS left trash? Say it ain't so. Oh, I guess they were providing job security for those who had to pick it up.
Or perhaps there were not enough trash cans for two million people to deposit their trash. I'm quite sure that after Bush's inaugurations the grounds were left spotless...NOT!

Posted by: katie11 | January 21, 2009 5:53 PM | Report abuse

Even worse -- those who were far more concerned with exiting the Mall after the inaugural address than they were with letting emergency service vehicles through. My husband is a paramedic and was unable to make it to a patient because the crowds would not let him pass. They had broken down the barriers that were erected to allow emergency workers pass through and were totally unresponsive to his pleas to let him through.

Posted by: oschie | January 21, 2009 6:33 PM | Report abuse

130 tons divided by 2 million people is 2.08 ounces of waste per person. I'd hardly say that constitutes trashing the place. Putting that many people in a festival setting is going to generate alot of trash, regardless of their political views.

Posted by: aps1 | January 21, 2009 8:12 PM | Report abuse

It is appropriate that unprecedented numbers of visitors would leave a lot of trash behind. I don't understand why people call this inappropriate just because most of the visitors were Obama supporters. If you recall, more than half of the country voted for him, and they are certainly not all environmentalists.

Also, just because there's trash everywhere doesn't mean littering was widespread. The trash cans were cardboard boxes, and most of them blew down over the course of the windy day.

Just sayin' :)

Posted by: xiann | January 21, 2009 8:45 PM | Report abuse

Sorry to say, our country is a nation of self-centered pigs.

Posted by: MRGB | January 21, 2009 8:50 PM | Report abuse

I find it pretty interesting that there's endless photos of the inauguration, but almost none of the aftermath in the mainstream media, including this article about the mess. I guess having memories of a flawless day is better than depicting the truth. Keep up the unbiased journalism, guys.

Posted by: fonkyou | January 21, 2009 10:10 PM | Report abuse

I hike and camp the Great Smoky Mountains and there is a rule; "What you Hike In, You Hike Out".

To all of you folks making excuses; "there where not enough trash cans", "the wind blew it on the Mall", you are as lazy as the folks who left their trash behind, lazy minded. There are no excuses for leaving trash, if you carried it in, you carry it out.

On a political stand point, the democrats have taken it upon themselves to be the "Environmental Police of the World". If you are going to have that label then you do need to set the example.

On a legal stand point everyone who left trash on the Mall was violating the law. The Mall is a National Park, there for it is against the law to leave trash in a National Park. You are obligated to remove any trash that you created or brought in.

From the outside looking in I would say that the democrats of this nation are hypocritical in making claims about George W. Bush and the Republican Party as being criminals. By their willing actions on Tuesday they violated Federal laws and did just the opposite of what they “claim” they stand for.

Posted by: AMERICANWARRIOR | January 22, 2009 10:20 AM | Report abuse

That's just so disrespectful to our nation's capital on such a special day! On one of the worst days to do it, too... when all the world's eyes were on us, judging every little move we make!.

Too few receptacles is no excuse. We (my family) take trash bags with us when we go to big outdoor events or trips out doors. We've always done that. At least a grocery bag or two.

And having been to quite a few big events, I find it hard to believe it was all blown around from neat piles. Had people walked that trash back out with them, there would not be any piles there.

I guess people really are just plain lazy these days. And that is not a preferred-political-party issue. That's a "lacking decent decorum and civility" issue!

Posted by: RepMomOfFour | January 23, 2009 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Thanks to all that bothered to take out what they brought in. I was one of those volunteers who had my picker in right hand and trash bag in left. There were plenty of cardboard box receptacles, but when park police noticed people untieing (sp) the stacks of receptacles and using them to sit on, the box drops were halted. Dems, repubs, or whatever...volumes of people will leave volumes of trash & that's that. I'm just proud that I was out there doing what I could to clean up our National Mall.

Posted by: scorpio2u | January 26, 2009 11:05 AM | Report abuse

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