Advice for Clean Up and Leaving Black Rock City

Clean Up – Restore the Playa!

Cleaning Up

Cleaning Up

Since you didn’t wait till the end of week to clean up, you should be overwhelmed by the mess and should be able to pack-up and load everything (including all trash) into your vehicles, and do a line sweep for every last bit of MOOP (Matter Out Of Place).

Grid Your Camp for MOOP

Give everyone a Ziploc bag, line them up along one edge of camp, look down and slowly walk to the other side. Make it fun! Cover your entire area looking for those last bits of MOOP: every twist tie, cigarette butt, food scrap, carpet fiber, match, nut shell, staple, scrap of plastic …everything. Start taking down your camp Sunday , not at the last minute when patience and energy are running low.  Our friends at Playa Restoration have years of experience with deMOOPing!  Check out their top list of MOOP Issues(below) and instructions on how to conduct a MOOP sweep!  Also check out their LNT videos!

  1. Rebar, Tent Stakes and Ground Anchors – There’s nothing that a pair of vice grips and some leverage can’t pull out.
  2. Grey Water/Black Water Dumping – Dumping your grey/black water on the ground is nasty for the environment, and can get you a hefty fine from the BLM.
  3. Dunes – It’s important that we keep the playa flat safe for safe vehicle passage. Dunes are formed when windblown dust bounces off stationary objects and reforms on the ground, attracting more and more dust to the pile and exponentially creating a bigger dune. Once they start, there is nothing to stop them, except us. Caught at an early stage, dunes can be stopped by simply raking them down with a landscape rake. Be sure to MOOP the area afterward.
  4. Fireworks Debris – Fireworks are not allowed in Black Rock City; unfortunately, the people who light them off are rarely the same people that clean up after them.

    DPW's Playa restoration team showing us how it's done!

    DPW’s Playa restoration team showing us how it’s done!

  5. Carpet Fiber/Debris – Carpets, rugs, and old tattered tarps are often shredded to bits, leaving behind micro-sized MOOP over large areas.
  6. Cloth, Fiber and Rope Debris – Torn fragments of clothes, costumes, jewelry, and other fibrous materials.
  7. Metal Debris – Nails, screws, fasteners, metal slag, beer bottle tops, etc.–there is hardly anything on the playa that isn’t fastened with metal. Whether your constructing something out of wood or welding, a magnet sweeper with a release handle (do a web search) will work wonders getting metal quickly and easily off the ground.
  8. Cigarette Butts – Do not drop cigarettes on the Black Rock Desert. It’s not your ashtray.
  9. Glass Debris – Broken beer bottles, broken windshields, etc.
  10. Plastic Debris – Plastic bottle tops, packaging, baggies, zip ties, duct tape, caution tape, etc. Plastic is all too often airborne MOOP due to wind conditions and carelessness. Manage your plastic materials, keep them secure and recycle. Hint: Cut off the top of a 1 gallon jug of water and you have an excellent MOOP bucket.
  11. Wood Debris – Wood chips, bark, palettes, splinters, sawdust, boxes, cardboard, paper, etc. Though often thought to be “organic,” wood is simply not found naturally the playa, and it is here where we must draw the line — it’s MOOP. The impact of wood is consistently the highest of all the traces and must be eliminated. We simply ask you to manage your wood. Place a tarp on the ground for your work zones, woodpiles, and burnable debris.
  12. Plants – Plants, palm trees, pine needles, palm fronds, leaves, etc. Trees, plants, and leaves die, break, and shred, creating a huge mess of micro-sized MOOP spread out over a wide area. Factor in the dust storms and you’ve got a disaster to deal with on your hands and knees.

Pull All Rebar

A Buried Tent Stake Doesn’t Disappear. Instead, its hazard is magnified. Even when pounded below the surface, a stake will slowly, inevitably, emerge from the playa. Then it might be found during the Bureau of Land Management’s spring inspection, producing a black mark against permit renewal; or it might not be found until it tears a tire or gashes a foot – maybe during next year’s event, maybe to a windsurfer or another group that, like us, uses the playa. A pair of vise-grips will almost always remove a stuck stake. First clamp on the vise-grips and rotate the stake back and forth, to break the playa’s grip. Then continue rotating and also pull upwards. Ask neighbors for help. As a last resort, make the stake highly visible by fastening something to it. Someone else with heftier tools will be able to get it out.  Here are a few suggestions to help you remove these hazards from the playa.

  • Use a length of pipe to fit over the end of the rebar to bend it into a “J” before you hammer it in. Not only will this remove sharp ends that could hurt people, it will give you good attachment for guy lines and something you can grab when you’re trying to pull it out.
  • Bring a crowbar, pipe or something to pull it out with. The keyword here is LEVERAGE. Think Archemides, a fulcrum and moving the world.
  • Use vise grips or crow bar to twist the metal a rotation or two, tap it a few times on the side with a hammer, and it should pull straight out. If you’re still having trouble, ask neighbors for help. Don’t forget work gloves.
  • Stubborn rebar can be coaxed out of the ground by pouring some water into the hole. Wiggle the rebar around a bit to get the water all the way down the length of the metal. Sometimes, this is all it takes to do the trick.
  • Whatever you do, DON’T leave the rebar behind, stuck in the ground. This is a Leave No Trace event, and part of the fun is the improvisation and community that comes from solving problems like getting that bastard out. If you can’t get it out, ask someone to help you. Adapt. Be dogged and tenacious. Don’t let it win.
  • As a very, very, last resort, make the stake highly visible by fastening something to it. Someone else with heftier tools will be able to get it out.
  • Remember that guide lines are almost as dangerous as rebar. You don’t want to “clothesline” an unwary cyclist. Make guy lines more visible by sliding a short length (3- or 4-foot) of PVC over the line before driving peg into the ground. It CLEARLY marks both the line and the location of the peg, EVEN ON THE DARKEST NIGHT. When used with candy-caned rebar, it makes securing your structure fairly safe.

Devote Two Hours to General Cleanup in Black Rock City !

Picking up micromoop!

Picking up micromoop!

Each participant is asked to contribute two hours to community cleanup before departure. This means streets, Center Camp, Center Café, all other public spaces, and open playa where stuff may have been left behind.  Grab your MOOP bag and go forth!  Stop by the Earth Guardian camp during the week  and jump on our MOOP train or come by on Sunday and Monday and we’ll help direct you to the areas of the City that need the most attention.

If you can stay for 3-4 weeks, join the post-event DPW clean-up crews, they have a lot of BRC Infrastructure to remove! Help us get all the MOOP out of here, so that we can all return again. The Bureau of Land Management, the agency that writes our Special Recreation use permit, must agree that we’ve left no trace, that our site is more than just clean in appearance. After the event, random circular plots of our city are inspected. This year, collected debris may not exceed an average of 1.0 square foot per acre, less than 23 parts per million! No pits, bumps, burn scars, or buried materials can be left behind. Burn scars and debris from past seasons have been known to resurface after rains, even from past events!

The Hungry Wind

There’s a hungry wind beyond the playa. It waits for us to drive away, our vehicles filled and with bags, tubs, and odd materials tied to luggage racks, in truck beds and on open trailers. On the long drive home, the hungry wind – the 70MPH wind that agitates your outside stuff while all is serene within – is tearing at your rig from every possible direction. It will take whatever is casually attached. That might be a bag of trash, or it might be something precious.

  • Trash bags are cheap, under-filled is better than over-filled. Use double-bagging, especially if the contents are sloppy or smelly. Tie the first bag shut – knot the neck, or use cord or duct tape, not those flimsy pull-tie ribbons. Then put it inside a second bag, and tie that shut.
  • Twine shreds, string breaks. Use heavy cord or light rope to close bags and to tie down your load.
  • Don’t expect knots to stay tied in the wind. Wrap short lengths of duct tape over knots and loose ends. Duct tape in contact with both rope and bag will help keep bags from slipping free.
  • Secure snap-on lids with rope or duct tape. Or turn your bin upside down to help hold the lid in place.

    Time to go

    Time to go

  • Find a neighbor with packing skills. Ask them to look your rig over and help make it windproof. (Hey – do you have those skills? Helping to windproof is a really sweet playa gift! Bring extra duct tape and rope!)
  • Take a rest stop early; at the entrance gate, at a wide pullout, or maybe at the Empire store. Check your load. It is most likely to fail early in the trip.
  • Allow for vehicle space for the trash you’ll generate over the week. (And minimize that trash: delete excess packaging beforehand, then during the event burn paper and dehydrate kitchen scraps in mesh bags.)
  • Consider whether you want to get rid of your trash before you reach home. If so, make a note of directions and hours for the waste disposal sites along I-80. (On the Burning Man website, a search for “take trash” will zero you in.)
  • Desperation at departure time produces unstable loads, but home preparation can head it off. So, include these packing items in your pre-desert planning: heavy-duty contractors plastic bags, 1 to 3 mils thick; plenty of light rope or stout cord (NOT twine or string); duct tape; maybe a 5-gallon bucket with locking lid for wet waste.

Then, may you drive gently, arrive safely with all your gear, and leave the empty wind behind you.

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