Recycling and recovery

Notting Hill Carnival: behind the scenes at Europe’s largest clean-up operation

  • Notting Hill Carnival is Europe’s biggest annual festival in London that attracts 2 million partygoers over the August Bank Holiday
  • SUEZ recycling and recovery UK has been involved in the clean-up for Carnival since 1997 on behalf of Kensington and Chelsea Council
  • Over two evenings dedicated waste crews from SUEZ work through the night to clear away rubbish and cleanse the streets

Every year, the streets of Notting Hill become the stomping ground for one of the biggest carnivals in the world. The day after it’s hard to imagine the streets had been strewn with litter just a few hours earlier. Have you ever wondered what goes into getting the streets looking spotless for the residents following such an event?

A new behind-the-scenes film by SUEZ recycling and recovery UK has revealed the detailed planning that goes into preparing the streets of North Kensington for, and cleaning up after, the Notting Hill Carnival, in what is considered to be Europe’s largest clean-up operation.

The Carnival draws in crowds from far and wide, with up to 2 million people in attendance every year over the August Bank Holiday who leave behind around 300 tonnes of waste. SUEZ has been handling the clean-up for the carnival on behalf of Kensington and Chelsea Council since 1997, and preparations start as early as Spring.

SUEZ’s behind-the-scenes footage shows the preparations that take place ahead of the carnival in the days leading up to the big event, including the removal of bins and street furniture, as well as giving a glimpse into the operations for cleaning the streets and removing the piles of rubbish that build up during the festivities.

On Sunday evening a crew of around two-hundred people and 30 trucks go out to start clearing and washing down the streets, working into the early hours. With the crews unable to go in and start working until the crowds have dispersed, the stalls have been packed away and the police are happy for the work to begin, it’s a complex operation that involves months of careful planning.

The carnival footprint is divided into 14 sectors with each having its own supervisor, managing two or three collection crews and support units. The crews work throughout the night on both days so that come Tuesday morning, the streets are clean just in time for the residents to go about their early morning commutes.

But the work doesn’t stop there, as the week after the carnival wraps up, teams at SUEZ are still busy washing down the area and providing extra services such as basement washing and jet spraying stairs - for the many residents that live on the carnival route, the Council offers a free cleaning service to clean up any waste that may have been left behind on their properties.

SUEZ also has dedicated crews around the carnival area who work over a period of 3 months to remove graffiti.

Gary O’Hagan, SUEZ recycling and recovery UK Contract General Manager commented: “The clean-up for Notting Hill Carnival is organised over a number of months to ensure the operation runs smoothly and efficiently. SUEZ is really pleased with how our crews pulled together over the carnival weekend, and we’re happy to be able to share this behind-the-scenes footage to showcase how hard our teams work to get the streets back to normal following the festivities.

"We’ve been responsible for the carnival clear up for the Council for many years, and we’re proud to have a tried and tested operational plan which gets the streets looking tidy for the local residents as quickly as possible. Thanks to our thorough planning and the dedication of our crews who worked throughout the night, we are able to have the streets in tip-top shape for the early morning commuters on Tuesday.”

Cllr Cem Kemahli, lead member for planning and public realm said: “Carnival is rooted in Notting Hill and has a long, proud history here in our borough. We help facilitate the event and the biggest operation for us and SUEZ is putting our streets back to how our residents and businesses expect to see them by Tuesday morning. This footage is eye-opening and shows the scale of the operation and the preparation involved. This year I went out with the crews myself on Sunday night so I saw first-hand the efforts that go into Europe’s biggest clear. Heartfelt appreciation goes out to the SUEZ waste collection teams and all those who put in their nighttime hours to make this restoration possible.”