Line Sweeps: Tactical Information

Line sweeps are the DPW’s primary method of cleaning the desert after Burning Man. Participants well-educated in the event’s Leave No Trace philosophy know to pack out every single bit of their trash with them — but at the dirt rave, people lose pieces of themselves in high winds without knowing it.

Something incredible happens after the Man burns, Collexodus insures the DPW stays fed, and participants enter the default world: Playa Restoration. During this cleanup process, the DPW scans the desert for microtrash we call MOOP — any Matter that’s Out Of Place — in formations we’ve honed so much we feel they’re worth sharing to the larger world.

So this document is meant to demystify MOOPing for the people. Why? Open source, yall. Alternate applications of tactical line sweep deployment include:

  • post-festival or -gathering cleanup
  • clearing underbrush from a local neglected public space
  • search and rescue
  • LNT-ing at rights-exercising protests or temporary autonomous zones
  • finding a lost engagement ring in a field (why not moop too while you’re at it; don’t be a jerk)
  • removing party trash and tweaker camps from your favorite park or riverbank
  • etc
line up
line up

How to do line sweeps

Moopers line up with only enough space to stretch out their arms. They cover areas in large rectangular swathes, mapped and delineated in advance with cones set to coordinates marked on GPS devices. Do the math as far as how many people you have vs. how many feet your parallel line will be on the grid.

The best moop buckets are made from two-gallon water jugs with handles; cut out a square in the top front of the plastic in order to make it a ‘bucket.’ The top handles provide maximum comfort and the small hole in front of the handle prevents trash from blowing out in high winds.

(For alternate events with more potential large trash, such as cleaning disaster areas or mooping tweaker camps from the riverbank, you may want to use five-gallon buckets instead. If your trash volume will be high, maybe have oscillators running 55-gallon trash cans from the lines on dollies, then dumping those cans into other cans in back of central trucks in the parking lot, with transpo dump-runners allocated to drive the big stuff away.)


As a line sweeper, if you don’t have moop sticks, and your knees are okay, try to get in the habit of squatting instead of bending over, unless you’ve taken the appropriate posture and movement classes. You want to develop a slightly serpentine gait, turning at different S-curves as you walk your straight line.

Maybe even turn around in a little circle to look behind you every few swishes. Why? Because sunlight and shadows are tricky. Some bits of moop are barely seen from where you stand, but then become completely obvious when viewed from the other direction.

Line sweepers function under the traffic-control of their line bosses, who either use a megaphone or enjoy hollering. Line bosses must be tough, genial benevolent dictators — possessing a quasi-military attitude of ego-free tactical facilitation, combined with enough comical aggression to keep a volunteer labor force entertained in order to continue to do what the line bosses say.

Starchild. Photo by @JHFearless

What are some important things for line bosses to know, Starchild?:

“Keeping their spacing, and making sure they’re walking in the right direction. Walk behind the line to see what’s being missed. It’s helpful to let the lines know exactly what we’re looking for. Watch for people who are a little more f’d up, dehydrated, and wobbly than they should be. It’s important to stay behind the line.”

Weldboy, another line boss: “Line ‘em up, march ‘em forward, and keep ‘em spread out. When somebody hits a hotspot, [the line boss walks over to] decide whether an assist is necessary or a cone. We also decide whether to send a scribe [to mark the spot on GPS]. We hold a spot and keep the line moving. The job of the line is to sweep all the blocks, not concentrate on the hardcore shit.”


Oscillators are the crewmembers tasked with hotspot facilitation; crews should have one oscillator for maybe every 20 or 30 people. They sit in trucks behind the lines, armed with garbage cans, cones, vise grips, rakes, shovels, extra moop sticks, buckets, drinking water, etc.

The garbage cans are color-coded: Red for moop, green for soil / playa, and grey for the line sweepers’ own trash. To call for an oscillator, as a mooper when you find a hot spot, wave your moop stick in a circle above your head.

The cones mark hotspots that would slow down the line. Special Forces attacks the hotspots afterward, removing the cones when done, so don’t worry about coned areas. Keep it moving. This is the most efficient use of labor. If your crew can’t afford cones, make up something that spikes in the ground and stands vertically, that’s visible from hundreds of feet away.


Fluffer trucks, crew transpo buses, the Ranger, and the Medic are parked a block or two ahead of the line, faced in the direction the line is moving. As the line starts moving, these vehicles roll a couple “blocks” forward and park. Drivers and fluffers exit vehicles and moop the area where they are, if not busy.

These vehicles, in addition to being useful, are the carrot at the end of the stick for line sweepers — something to aim for, psychologically. Snack breaks only occur every third or fourth cycle.

Vehicles circle up to provide shade and community during lunch. Morale in the afternoon is a chance to either have a dance party, cop some alone time, or take a disco nap in the shade of a truck.

keep mooping ... almost there ... again
keep mooping … almost there … again

There’s also a roll-caller and cat-herder, who coordinates the overall movement of the lines and trucks, and issues orders to drivers via radio to move forward a block or two, or circle up for lunch. The roll-caller also makes sure nobody’s skipped away or is missing, lying asleep under a truck somewhere waiting to get run over (it could happen — don’t let it).

Portajohns towed behind a truck also rest behind the line, or nearer the fluffers if a break is coming soon. The best window for taking a break to get fluffed is during line sweeps, not at the beginning of the cycle when people are lining up.

The fluffers carry obvious things on the truck: music playing, water, water coolers, ice, soft drinks, electrolytes, sunscreen, aloe, cups, utensils, lady items, aspirin & ibuprofen, salves, fruit cups, nuts, chips, protein drinks and powders, gluten-free items, bug spray, hand sanitizer, essential oils, hot sauce, jerky, and easy cheese.

Fluffers at some events might have to hand everything out, like they’re a taco truck, so people who are maladapted to a fear-based scarcity mindset don’t get weird. But at Resto, where we all know each other and share everything from Collexodus, DPW fluffers set out variety boxes for people to grab from, while keeping the main supply stashes packed for efficiency.

Fluffers during events in the default world may not have much of a budget, but the advice is to try to borrow an RV or ice cream truck, and to have at least a variety of similar items to what people want. Fluffer trucks even have “stupid human lunches” for people who forgot to pack one: Cold cans of soup and ravioli. And, as Muthafluffa points out, they always try to have a smile on, because it’s the fluffers’ job to keep the mood around the lines more summer camp than labor camp.

a Special Forces attack in progress
a Special Forces attack in progress

All in all, the object of the line-sweep game is to maximize the labor force you’ve been given. You keep them moving and happy mainly by keeping their needs met. It took the DPW a few years to figure that out, but we’ve got it dialed.

And now, so do you.


Oh, by the way, have yall ever heard of the MOOP Squad? This writer is new to them, but they’ve been around for a solid decade, taking the DPW’s / Earth Guardians’ / Burning Man’s Leave No Trace ethic to the festival people of the West Coast. Their beautiful-goddess-who-must-be-obeyed vibe seems to work as perfectly in driving herds of potential MOOPers as the DPW’s more feral tactics do.

Witness this video — what’s impressive is how much people want to help once they’re given just a tiny bit of direction. Thank you, MOOP Squad. Yall are Black Rock City DPW’s pan-festival evangelists.

Let’s clean up all the places, shall we?

Go forth and moop.

Follow Summer Burkes on Twitter.

About the author: Summer Burkes

Summer Burkes

Summer Burkes has been rousting about at Burning Man since 1998. She first met her dusty DPW / Cyclecide / Bike Club fam-dambly on the back of The Bucket. A Cacophony Society enthusiast, Summer loves explosions and cake.