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Charlotte Area News

Drivers, Start Your Garbage Trucks! Speed Street Cleanup Is No Easy Task

Nick de la Canal
A solid waste worker carries off Speed Street refuse in uptown Charlotte Friday.

How much waste does the annual Circle K Speed Street festival generate? According to the city's Solid Waste Services: about 10 tons. That's heavier than six fully-loaded race cars, or roughly equivalent to 118 Dale Earnhardt Juniors.

And that's not even including the one to two tons of recycled bottles and beer cans.

Cleaning up that amount of refuse is no simple task, but the city's Solid Waste Services sure makes it look easy.

Over the course of the three-day festival, 40 solid waste employees work around the clock - sometimes as late as 2 a.m. - picking up litter, changing garbage bags and scrubbing the streets clean after hours.

"Once everybody leaves, for us, that's when the magic starts," says Eric DeLaPena, a deputy director with Solid Waste Services who's been working the uptown garbage beat for about nine years.

It might seem like a thankless job, but it's one of the most necessary to keep the festival running smoothly through the weekend.

"Without Solid Waste Services, it would certainly not be as enjoyable," DeLaPena says with a laugh.

As far as uptown festivals go, Speed Street isn't the worst to clean up after. DeLaPena says it's probably second to Taste of Charlotte, which generates much more food waste and heaps of disposable plates, cups  and utensils.

Other events that are tough to clean up? DeLaPena says the NBA All-Star Week and Charlotte Pride come to mind.

Just imagine cleaning up all that glitter!