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Keeping SunFest clean: Workers busy around the clock to keep music festival trash-free

Posted at 8:22 PM, May 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-05 20:22:33-04

They're the unsung heroes of SunFest. They do the jobs that most people wouldn't want to do: picking up trash after thousands of concert goers.

But there's people that do it to make sure your SunFest experience is a good one.

Every day that you may have been at SunFest, it may look nothing had happened the night before. Beer cans, water bottles and cups are all gone, the ground is clear of trash.

It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it.

"Per day, [we work] about 18 to 22 hours to keep this clean," said Raul Perez, who works for Michael J. Johns, Inc., a recycling and trash pick-up company.

The company has been contracted to pick up every piece of trash at SunFest. Perez said so much work goes into keeping several blocks of land clean.

"I can tell you, we can fill five dumpsters daily. Plus two or three trucks of garbage," he said.

That several tons of garbage a day. Perez, a supervisor, is one of nearly 100 people working around the clock emptying trash cans and recycling bins.

"Every night, we have to general clean up, and the morning, too. And we have to do recycling as well, so it's like double clean up," he added.

The one thing he sees thrown on the ground the most is bottles and plastic cups.

"The ground, filled with cups all over the place. You don't see any spot with no cups," he said.

The Lagoon Keepers, an organization dedicated to keeping the waterways and local lagoons clean, says it all boils down to educating the public.

"Trash isn't the problem, it's how we handle it," said spokesman and marine biologist student Jordan Montenegro. "Because they think that we're there to pick it up, which we are there to help pick it up -- but it's easier if it's not thrown into the water in the first place."

While the rain can unfortunately help to wash some trash into the water, the wind has helped to keep it out.

"It's blowing toward the southeast this year, so it's not piling up towards the island -- so it makes the area look cleaner," said Montenegro.

Montenegro said the water in the lagoon is always flowing, which may carry trash from other locations. He said that a cleanup in the lagoon on Earth Day this year yielded over 100 pounds of trash. Two days later, volunteers went back out for a second clean up to see how much trash had built up after the tides and weather changes -- they pulled out nearly 50 pounds.

Lagoon Keepers said much of the credit to keeping the water clean goes to the workers who work around the clock.

"They do an amazing job keeping it clean," said Montenegro.

And with just two more days left of SunFest, the work continues to keep it clean. Workers hope people will help them out by utilizing the dozens of recycling bins and trash cans that are on the grounds.

"They need us. If we weren't here, I can tell you, it wouldn't look the way it looks like right now," said Perez.

After the festival, volunteer divers with local fire departments dive into the lagoon to fetch out some of the trash left over from SunFest.