Though each and every one of us is responsible for the trash made in New York, if you ask around, most people have no idea where our garbage goes after we leave it outside for pick-up. Is it burned in incinerators? Sent to a landfill? The answer may surprise you.
Where your garbage doesn’t go...
In 2001, Mayor Rudy Giuliani permanently closed the Fresh Kills Landfill – the city’s premier garbage collection site for the second half of the Twentieth Century – and approved a plan to build the second largest park in New York City directly on the landfill site. It will span 2,200 acres (over 2.7 times the size of Central Park) and will include athletic, cultural, educational and environmental programs.
Well, only sort of. The downside is that the project will take over 30 years to complete and in the meantime, New York City is left without any nearby garbage facilities. This means that your trash, once collected, is hauled out of state to landfills in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Virginia – wasting resources in transportation and increasing air pollution and health problems the neighborhoods they drive through.
The Future of NYC Landfills
In 2006, Mayor Bloomberg signed legislation to transport up to 90% of New York’s residential garbage via barge or rail. According to the proposal, this should reduce the miles driven by garbage trucks by 2.7 million miles per year, and the miles driven by tractor by 3 million per year. The plan is controversial because it will require transfer stations in each borough and will raise the price of disposal.
Your Garbage in Numbers
- * There are 148,000 collection vehicles in the U.S., 2,230 of which are in NYC
- * There are 1,754 landfills and 545 recycling facilities nationwide
- * New York City residents generate roughly 12,000 tons of trash per day
- * NYC spent almost $1 billion per year on trash and recyclables collection before recent cutbacks
- * 65% of trash comes from residences – the rest from schools and commercial buildings
- * 55% of waste gets buried in landfills, 33% gets recycled, and 12.5% goes to incinerators
What can we do to help?
- *Keep food and organic materials out of the trash with worm composting (including leaves – New York City no longer recycles them)
- *Compost through your local farmers market if you prefer not to do it at home
- *Bring your own non-plastic bags when you shop
- *Reduce! Buy fewer packaged goods – only purchase what you need.
- *Reuse! Always choose reusable items over disposable ones – bring real cutlery instead of using plastic, use rechargeable batteries, bring your own travel mug to coffee shops and use scrap paper.
- *Recycle! If you're confused on what goes where, you're not alone. Follow this helpful video on how it’s done!