After Santa gets moving, workers start cleaning tons of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade trash

After Santa gets moving, workers start cleaning tons of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade trash

Right behind Santa on his sleigh — the last Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade float, on West 86th Street and Central Park West — the New York City Department of Sanitation waited with 29 street-cleaning vehicles, 21 collection trucks and about 40 workers with manual sweepers, all ready to clean their way to Herald Square.

“We move when Santa moves. He’s the last float,” sanitation department supervisor Nicole Doz said.

In all, 140 workers help with the cleanup.

Last year, they picked up about 27 tons of garbage along the roughly 2.5-mile parade route. This year, they were expecting more garbage than ever.

“Everyone came out today to celebrate and it is awesome,” Jeff Pitts, deputy chief of the New York City Department of Sanitation, said. He is in charge of the parade’s cleanup, and has worked the parade every year since 2012.

City of New York Department of Sanitation Chief Jeff Pitts is in charge of the Thanksgiving Day Parade cleanup. He has worked the parade every year since 2012.

Rosemary Misdary/Gothamist

A couple of days before the parade, crews go out and give the route an extra cleaning to make it ready for the more than 3 million attendees on the streets, 50 million viewers at homes and 10,000 participants who include performers, marching band members and balloon handlers.

“We have been here for a few days,” Pitts said. “The cleaning process starts actually well in advance of the parade, because we have to do a few things like making sure the areas are presentable for the crowds that are coming.”

For security reasons, street corner litter baskets are removed and 79 sanitation trucks are used to blockade streets.

Sanitation trucks blockade Central Park West at West 86th Street right behind the last parade float — Santa Claus on his sleigh.

Rosemary Misdary/Gothamist

When the last float starts moving around 9:45 a.m., sanitation workers follow the parade cleaning as they go until they reach Herald Square. They sweep the confetti and pick up discarded clothing and horse excrement from the NYC Parks Mounted Auxiliary Unit, but the biggest source of trash is single-use cups. Annually, Americans throw away more than 100 billion cups, which generates about 26 billion tons of carbon dioxide – equivalent to the annual emissions of 2.5 million cars.

Even after the streets reopen about four hours later, there’s more to pick up, such as residual litter from production crews breaking down the parade. Cleaning goes well into the next morning.

“I love it,” Pitts said. “The people, the energy. Families come out and it’s so awesome to be a part of that. We are New York City’s strongest. This is what we do. We clean and we will clean.”

Sanitation workers also must pick up after NYC Parks horses, so that participants don’t have to step in or around what they leave behind.

Rosemary Misdary/Gothamist

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