Ever wonder who cleans up all that mess you made at the end of the Cooper River Bridge Run? About 75 of your friends and neighbors, that's who.

Volunteers showed up at Marion Square in downtown Charleston at 6:30 Saturday morning to prepare for the onslaught of 40,000 smiling, gasping, hungry, thirsty runners and walkers who made the trek across the river from Mount Pleasant.

Armed with a yellow T-shirt, blue gloves and one of those orange picky-uppy sticks, we spread out across the square with our plastic trash bags.

In those quiet moments before the thundering herd arrived, the recycling stations were manned and everybody was instructed on where to haul the 30,000 empty water bottles once they were collected.

To everybody's credit, more and more people have become trained to put their empty plastic containers in the designated recycling bins.

Food, however, is another story.

A pretty disgusting story.

Not raised right

When runners and walkers cross the finish line, they move through a bazaar of free food, compliments of local grocery chains.

At their fingertips are bottles of cold water, apples, oranges, bagels, muffins and bananas. Over the years, the amount of food available has grown in quantity and quality, and people have come to expect this treat at the end of their run.

The problem is, some people just weren't raised right. While we tend to think of the Bridge Run crowd as upwardly mobile, save-the-planet kind of people, it's obvious to those of us on the business end of an orange picky-uppy stick that their mothers missed something in their upbringing.

For one thing, people tend to take more than they can eat because it's free. Unfortunately, much of it goes uneaten or half-eaten and left on the ground.

This is not a scientific survey, but take my word for it. I've seen what's left behind.


After almost four hours of picking up banana and orange peels, apple cores, muffin cups and water bottles, you wonder if these people live like this at home.

Of course not. They're just having a good time. They're pretty oblivious to the reality of all the city workers standing by to clean up the streets.

That includes all those nice people in yellow volunteer T-shirts, blue gloves and orange picky-uppy sticks who are picking up behind them in Marion Square.

Some think because it's fruit, the food is biodegradable and, therefore, OK to throw on the ground. Well, it's not.

A banana, for instance, will bio-degrade in about 30 days. But we can't wait that long. We need our city back by sundown.

The worst of all the offensive garbage is the orange peel because people tend to tear them into 20 pieces and scatter them on the ground.

Nobody asked me, but I'd recommend to the Bridge Run gurus that they cut back on the food. Maybe just give them a banana and a bottle of water when they're done.

But what do I know? I'm just one of those people with a yellow T-shirt, blue gloves and one of those orange picky-uppy sticks.