One Hundred Tons of Garbage Collected After Obama Inauguration

The scene looked more like the leftovers of a massive college frat party.

Heaps of plastic bottles, food wrappers, soda cans, and newspapers, which blanketed the National Mall Wednesday morning, were a stark contrast to the stateliness and splendor of President Barack Obama's inaugural ceremony a day before.

One hundred tons of trash were collected by city and federal sanitation workers, according to Department of Public Works public information officer Linda Grant.

In comparison, 40 tons of garbage were collected in New York City's Time Square on New Year's Day 2009 -- after one million people attended the celebration -- according to the city's Department of Sanitation.

Grant said Washington's massive inaugural cleanup effort began at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

"By 5:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, we collected about 90 tons of the garbage," she said.

Early estimates of the crowd ranged as high as two million, though the National Park Service and Washington, D.C., Mayor Adrian Fenty have now put that number at 1.8 million -- the largest inaugural crowd the city has ever seen.

The cleanup area extended well beyond the National Mall and parade route, city sanitation workers said.

Approximately 300 workers assisted in the effort. The city used 20 mechanical street sweepers and 12 trash packers to compress the garbage, Grant said.

"We also had 12 leaf vacuums to rake trash into the curb space and then suction it up, which worked really great," she said.

And giant septic trucks took to the streets in the wee morning hours, suctioning waste inside the 7,000 portable toilets used during the inaugural festivities. Many of the toilets were placed on flatbed trucks to be cleaned and then later reused.

Grant said that the largest bulk of garbage was left behind by vendors selling President Obama souvenirs -- though she said there was a wide range in items left by inaugural revelers.

"There were even people's sleeping bags," she said.

Grant, who was pleased with the speed of the cleanup effort, said she was surprised at how successful it was given the unprecedented number of people who braved the frigid temperatures to celebrate.

"I got a call earlier today from one of our residents who wanted to let me know that she went out on the Mall yesterday and said 'Linda, it was immaculate.'"