10 Events That Need Their Own Landfills

An art installation made of trash

Roberto Ventre / Flickr

Wherever people gather en masse, so does their trash. Even large-scale events with the best of environmental intentions can result in a heap of rubbish. To serve as a reminder to tread lightly, here's a list of 10 of the world's dirtiest events.

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UGA vs. South Carolina, 2009

Photo: ikwildrpepper/Flickr [CC by 2.0]

After the University of Georgia's 2009 home opener against South Carolina, clean-up crews were stunned to find over 70 tons of trash, not to mention numerous instances of urination and defecation across campus. Day games usually generate half that amount of trash, but every weekend during the football season, scores of fans gather in stadium parking lots for tailgating parties. Left in their wake are often whole tents left half-standing, abandoned portable grills, and trash strewn everywhere. What kind of school pride is that?

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9/12 Tea Party Protest, 2009

Photo: Patriot Room/Flickr [CC by 2.0]

Thousands marched on Washington on Sept. 12, 2009, to protest big government. Unfortunately, like many large-scale Washington marches, this one relied heavily on publicly funded garbage men and women to pick up the rubbish. The tons of trash included cardboard signs, plastic bottles, and even prop American flags.

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Burning Man

Photo: Peretz Partensky/Wikimedia Commons [CC by 2.0]

Despite its leave-no-trace philosophy, Burning Man isn't exactly an environmentally friendly event. For one, the gathering in the Black Rock Desert north of Reno, Nev., takes its name from the ritual burning of a large wooden effigy. In 2007, the event boasted a 99-foot oil derrick that consumed 900 gallons of jet fuel and 2,000 gallons of liquid propane to blast a mushroom cloud 300 feet into the sky. In fact, there's a actually a group of San Francisco scientists who created CoolingMan which calculates how much the event contributes to global warming.

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2008 Beijing Olympics

Photo: Me/Wikimedia Commons [CC by 1.0]

Although the Chinese did their best to hide the extent of Beijing's air pollution for the 2008 Olympic Games, scientists have determined that particulate matter in Beijing was about double the levels of recent games in Athens, Greece; triple those of the Atlanta games in 1996; and 3.5 times higher than the games in Sydney, Australia.

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NASCAR events

Photo: Bo Nash/Flickr [CC by SA-2.0]

Aside from copious amounts of fossil fuels burned to power the cars, the resulting air pollution and the spilled oil and gas, NASCAR races also generate a lot of trash. According to Waste Age, "The Daytona 500 ... created enough trash to equal the weight of the entire 43-car starting field ... the [clean-up] effort required an average of 200 workers per day for two weeks. The cleaners worked across 700 acres and 168,000 grandstand seats, picking up litter, dumping 3,000 trash cans, and scrubbing 110 restrooms."

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Mardi Gras in New Orleans

Chris Graythen/Getty Images.

Based on the number of laborers and the degree of heavy machinery deployed to clean up after Mardi Gras, it seems that the celebration has returned to levels of excess not seen since before Hurricane Katrina. The 2008 clean-up fleet included 10 street sweepers, six front-end loaders, eight garbage trucks, three water trucks, three pressure washers and 12 dump trucks.

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Glastonbury Festival

Matt Cardy/Getty Images.

The Glastonbury Festival in England is the largest greenfield music and performing arts festival in the world, and it has a trash pile to prove it. Every year the festival employs a team of 1,200 volunteers who work for four, six-hour shifts to earn a festival ticket. They sort up to 2,000 tons of rubbish generated by the festival's 137,000 participants. The clean-up and recycling effort lasts for more than a month after the event.

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NYC's Times Square on New Year's Eve

Photo: Kathleen/Flickr [CC by 2.0]

The world's most famous New Year's Eve celebration draws over 1 million partiers to Times Square. Unfortunately, the ball isn't the only thing that gets dropped. Over 40 tons of garbage (from confetti to noise makers and beyond) are discarded, an annual gift for lucky NYC Department of Sanitation employees, about 200 of whom are assigned to this task. And the 25 mph wind gusts don't help the situation. "There's probably confetti as far as the East River," said Sanitation Commissioner John J. Doherty after this year's festivities.

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The climb to Mount Everest

Photo: By Daniel Prudek/Shutterstock

Mount Everest is quickly becoming the world's highest garbage dump. According to estimates, there are nearly 120 tons of litter, not to mention 120 dead bodies on the mountain. The trash includes high-tech climbing equipment, plastics, food, tins, oxygen tanks, aluminum cans, clothes, glass, paper and tents. The Nepalese government has initiated biannual clean-up expeditions, and some ecologists have suggested giving the mountain a rest (i.e.: be closed to climbers) for a year.

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Photo: Jon Elbaz/Wikimedia Commons [CC by 2.0]

Held annually in Manchester, Tenn., Bonnaroo is one music festival that tries its best to be green. But when so many people gather for music and a party, trash is sure to be left behind. This year a record was set for recycled waste, with well over 50 tons of garbage collected. To help, the festival has introduced permanent onsite electricity facilities, a compost heap, a vegetable garden, volunteers who keep watch on the trash (pictured), and a bottle-less water program. This year, they donated 2.5 tons of food to Feed America First and created 30 tons of compost.