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Burning Man Journal
All The News That's Fit To Burn: 2001 Summer Newsletter

Black Rock City 2000 Cleanup Report Card

By Dan Miller, DPW Cleanup Manager, and others — October 20, 2000 \

The Good News

Virtually the only traces of Black Rock City 2000 that remain are memories and photographs. We passed the initial Bureau of Land Management inspection, October 17, with flying colors. This Spring, BLM officials and members of our own Department of Public Works will again inspect the event site to determine if any further traces have resurfaced or need attention.

Our success in 2000 was due to the hard work of the DPW, Recycling Camp, and Earth Guardians, the good fortune of mild weather, and a dedicated hard-working cleanup crew. Most importantly, however, success depended on the awareness of our citizenry. As participants broke camp at the end of the weekend, entire blocks of Black Rock City seemed to instantly melt away, leaving only the suave unfeatured surface of the playa behind. Across our city, participants stooped to pick up millions of fragments of micro-debris. In 1999, Black Rock City produced 200 burn scars, but last year only 20 major burn scars were discovered. Lessons learned and implemented allowed us to create a larger city that we packed away in less than half the time! The most important preventive measures that made this possible are represented by the following Five Mantras:

  1. Don't let it hit the ground
  2. Clean as you go
  3. Pack it in/Pack it out
  4. Contribute to our public cleanup
  5. Never burn anything on the unprotected playa

The Bad News

However, all was not perfect. Too many fires burned directly on the playa and public burning stations overflowed, leaving a discolored mess. All told, there were over three dump truck loads of ash and burn debris from over 50 locations. The trash fence netted two to five hefty bags of trash per day (depending on windiness). Despite the tremendous effort of the citizen cleanup, our detail cleanup crew gridded the entire city and extracted an additional 300+ gallons (over six 55-gallon drums) of MOOP (matter out of place): wood chips, cigarette butts, water bottle caps, Mylar scraps, fireworks residue, plastic ties, screws, nails, plastic cup shards, non-native stones, plastic bits, broken glass, organic scraps, bamboo shake, leaves, pistachio shells, tent stakes, coins, jewelry bits, matches, lollipop stems, Q-tips, hair wads, paper/literature, beer bottle tops, spilled paint, wax, etc.

The highest concentrations of litter were found where people camped the longest, had done elaborate construction, or had the greatest populations of visitors — places like theme camps, roads, and many art installations.

Reminders for this year:

  • Read the detailed Cleanup Guide on our website and in our Survival Guide.
  • Avoid using "confetti"-producing materials (breakable glass bottles, exploded firecrackers, Mylar anything, feather boas) and those that shed or flake (straw, bamboo, leaves).
  • Leave no cigarette butts on the ground (way too many of these things still!).
  • If you are planning on leaving at night, be sure to clean your site during daylight hours.
  • Do not leave stakes in the ground.
  • Cleaning as you go has two benefits:
    1) less work at the end, and
    2) less stuff for a rogue storm to bury in mud.
  • Use only our public burning platforms. Consider NOT burning things as a means of convenient disposal — pack them out instead — and NEVER burn toxic synthetics, which can poison you and your friends downwind.
  • Please remember to contribute two hours to cleaning the public space of Black Rock City after cleaning your own camp down to the granular level! Focus your efforts in high-use areas.

A New Mantra

We confronted one last and quite unexpected cleanup problem in 2000. Participants took Mantra #1 too literally. Believing, perhaps, that debris dropped into the depths of a porta-toilet represented trash that had not hit the ground, they crammed these conveniences with discarded clothing, shoes, watermelons, plastic water bottles, and many other inappropriate items. This caused serious disruption of our toilet pumping service. Workers were actually forced to hand retrieve a lot of this material! This experience has inspired us to create a new cleanup mantra: If it wasn't in your body, don't put it in the potty. Ranger Scuba, a member of the Black Rock Rangers, has expressed this in a graceful poem:

A portapotty
Leave human excrement here
Got trash? Leave no trace
The hole is sacred
Only what passes through you
Should grace the round void