Neighbors, sanitation workers prep for ‘wall-to-wall’ trash if Eagles win

The sea of trash Eagles fans leave behind is “totally unacceptable,” one resident said. But the city’s sanitation force is “happy” to clean up after wins.

A close-up of trash on the sidewalk.

File photo: Beer bottles and cans litter the streets as fans begin and continue their early morning celebrations at the Eagles Super Bowl Champions parade in Philadelphia February 8th 2018. (Emily Cohen for WHYY)

If Philadelphia snags its second Super Bowl win this weekend, Philly sports fans could make history, too — by producing a record amount of trash.

City sanitation officials have already laid plans to restore the city to its pre-celebration condition, battling what could be legendary amounts of beer cans, food wrappers, water bottles, and discarded clothing after an Eagles win.

“It’s just the usual for us,” said Faruq Scott, sanitation operations administrator in the city’s Streets Department. ‘We’re coming in, and we’ll pick up whatever’s there.”

City crews cleaned up 92 tons of debris along the 2018 Eagles Super Bowl parade route, from Lincoln Financial Field to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, setting the record for most trash from a single event in Philly.

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“Your neighborhood gets trashed, your driveway gets trashed,” said life-long South Philly resident Andrew Dankanich. “I think it’s totally unacceptable.”

Dankanich, who works in maintenance and at a sports bar, lives a few blocks from Broad Street, next to the Stadium District. Alongside a plethora of beverage containers and red Solo cups, Dankanich finds hoagie wrappers, charcoal, clothing, and sometimes even coolers strewn about his neighborhood after games. When the Eagles won the Super Bowl in 2018, he stepped on a glass bottle and cut his foot.

“I’ve caught people using my driveway as a bathroom,” he said. “And I’m talking [number] one and two.”

If the Eagles win on Sunday, the Streets Department will deploy eight trash compactor trucks, 12 mechanical broom street sweepers, and dozens of employees with backpack blowers at four strategic locations: Frankford and Cottman avenues; Broad Street and Oregon Avenue; Center City; and Main Street, Manayunk, Scott said. The operation will be staffed by roughly 60 employees.

Thousands lined Broad St. to celebrate the Philadelphia Eagles' NFC Championship victory
Thousands lined Broad St. to celebrate the Philadelphia Eagles’ NFC Championship victory on Jan. 29, 2023. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)

“Our goal is to come in behind the crowds after they disperse and to restore the city to what it was,” Scott said.

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The Sanitionation Division achieved that goal after the Eagles’ last Super Bowl, said Stan Horwitz, who lives along the parade route on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

“I’ve had the experience of celebrating New Year’s in Times Square,” he said. “The trash I saw on the Parkway [in 2018] was unlike anything I’ve ever seen.”

When Horwitz, an IT professional who lives in a condo near the Philadelphia Museum of Art, left to run an errand after the parade ended, he rode his bike through a sea of beer cans.

“From east to west, north to south, it was wall-to-wall trash,” he said.

But by the time Horwitz returned a couple hours later, he was amazed to see city crews had cleaned up most of it.

“I was stunned at how efficiently it was, not back to normal, but pretty darn close,” he said. “By the next day … it was back to normal.”

File photo: Hundreds of thousands fill the Ben Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia on Feb. 8, 2018, to celebrate the Philadelphia Eagles winning Super Bowl LII. The Eagles beat the New England Patriots by 41-33. (Bastiaan Slabbers for WHYY)

Dankanich, the South Philly resident, agrees that the city does a good job responding quickly after a win. But he wishes the city would put out more trash cans in celebration hotspots ahead of games, which he thinks would prevent some of the trash from hitting the ground in the first place. He said he’s never seen city crews clean up trash from parades on side streets, like the one where he lives.

Since the 2018 Super Bowl, the city’s Sanitation Division has struggled to maintain services and staffing amid the pandemic.

But city sanitation officials hope to improve on their 2018 performance for any Super Bowl parade next week. Scott said his division learned lessons.

“[The trash] was more than I could have expected,” he said. “It was overwhelming, the amount of trash and debris that was on the Parkway … it was up to my knee.”

By the time sanitation crews got to the Parkway, where the parade ended, they were already tired from cleaning up tons of trash on Broad Street, Scott said.

“Once we got to the Parkway, that was a whole ‘nother obstacle that we had to attack,” he said.

So Scott plans to schedule two consecutive, eight-hour shifts of 60 sanitation workers each — one to clean Broad Street and the other to clean the Parkway —  for any parade next week.

The city spent roughly $215,000 on cleanup after the 2018 Super Bowl celebration and parade, and expects to spend at least that amount this year if the Eagles win, Scott said.

Despite all the recyclable cans and bottles that could be strewn about in the revelry, city sanitation workers will not try to separate out recycling from trash during the cleanups.

“It would be hard if not next to impossible to separate that,” Scott said.

Routine curbside trash pickups will likely be delayed by a day if the Eagles win, Scott said.

Dankanich, the South Philly resident, isn’t sure whether he wants the Eagles to win on Sunday, because of the mess he knows it will bring.

“I’m stuck in the middle with that one, to be honest,” he said.

But to Scott, of the Sanitation Division, Eagles’ wins are worth the trash.

“If they win every year, that’s a great thing,” Scott said. “We don’t mind cleaning up.”

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