Nevada Department of Transportation calls preliminary results “immaculate.”
Burning Man’s Highway Restoration Crew has completed its initial first-phase cleanup of Highway 447 from Wadsworth to Gerlach, Highway 446 in Nixon, Highway 445 near Pyramid Lake, and County Route 34, the roads that bring event participants to the playa each year. Highway Restoration will continue to conduct repeated sweeps of the roads until the end of Playa Restoration in early October.
Despite work delays from a rainstorm on September 5 and the Plumas Fire in California, which sent smoke pouring into northern Nevada on September 6, the crew completed its initial cleanup by September 8. They collected a total of nearly 600 bags of trash — both old trash and a result of event participants not securely their loads properly.
The total also included 300 bags of trash and a couch from an abandoned trash vending operation on Highway 447 near mile marker 49, which Highway Restoration Managers Sansa Asylum, Dirty Bacon, and Velveeta, along with nine volunteers, recovered on September 4. Independent trash vendors offering post-event trash collection along the side of the highway are not associated with the Burning Man event or Burning Man Project.
Burning Man Project’s Environment Restoration Manager, Dominic “DA” Tinio says the 600 bags of trash collected by the Highway Restoration Crew represents a 30 to 40 percent reduction in highway trash since 2016.
He attributes this drop to increased efforts encouraging participants to properly secure their load and to use the Leave Nevada Beautiful authorized trash collection sites or to take their waste home with them.
“I am so thankful for our participating Leave Nevada Beautiful vendors for the work that they do helping participants put their trash, recycling, and black/grey water in its right place, ” DA says.
Dawson Overbay, Permit Inspector with the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT), drove the highways on September 9 and described them as “immaculate…It’s going really well from the NDOT side of things, and from the Burning Man side of things.”
Overbay is planning to conduct another inspection as the remaining staff operations continue to wind down and leave the playa for the season.
Highway Cleanup was originally founded in 1999 by Taz a.k.a Chris Petrell. Playa Restoration officially took over in 2009, assuming cleanup responsibility for the highways near our home in the Black Rock Desert after the event, and helping to keep the roads safe, clean, and beautiful while aiming to leave a positive impact on neighboring communities.
The Playa Restoration Crew of approximately 175 people is also currently on the Black Rock Desert, working hard to leave no trace of Black Rock City as our time on the playa draws to a close.
Tips for Keeping the Highways Clean
- Plan ahead how you’re going to dispose of your trash properly, and leave yourself enough time to do it.
- Secure your vehicle’s load. Most highway trash and debris falls off vehicles leaving the playa. Use heavy-duty high-quality contractor trash bags. Cover load with tarp and straps.
- Use the official Leave Nevada Beautiful list of authorized disposal sites for trash, recycling, and black and gray water. Only bring human waste to sites that accept “hazardous material.”
- DO NOT use any public trash cans or dumpsters for your event-related waste because the local communities cannot support the needs of even a small portion of our 80,000 participants.
- Be aware that some unaffiliated independent trash operations along the highway have questionable environmental practices, are not part of our network, and cannot be endorsed.
Top photo: Highway Restoration Crew after cleaning up the abandoned trash vendor operation on 447 at mile marker 49. (Photo by Dirty Bacon)