New York City has one of the largest sanitation departments in the world. The New York Times follows waste from sidewalks and garbage trucks to treatment facilities and upstate farms.
Watch the video and tick the topics that are mentioned in the video.
garbage collection workforce
people not paying attention to garbage collection
the history of garbage collection in New York
the advent of landfills and incinerators
the export of waste
the benefits of organic waste
collectors working together
recycling can be confusing
an education in recycling
creating a global awareness of recyling
New York City is a metropolis of 8.4 million people and what they do every day is produce garbage.
We got the most complex waste management system in North America. There is challenges but there is also opportunities.
The awareness of trash in general I think is growing in New York. Not just the fact that it’s a problem but that there are steps we as individuals can take to help lessen the quantity we generate.
If you are going to have these many people live on this little amount of land, you cannot do it without a lot of infrastructure. Every day more than 72 hundred men and women of the Department go out in 2,000 collection trucks and collect 10,000 tons of residential waste and another 15 hundred tons of recyclable material.
Nobody ever finishes their coffee.
Sanitation allows any city to thrive and at the same time, we really only notice them when there is a missed pick-up, or when the truck is blocking car and the motorist is irate. We take it for granted.
New York City in the 19th century was by contemporary standards almost unimaginably disgustingly dirty. In 1895 Colonel George Waring took over and immediately imposed very significant changes on the way the job of street cleaning and garbage collection were carried out. He imposed a military structure of hierarchy and accountability. He dressed the men in white, partly to associate them with public hygiene and also to make them harder for them to sneak off to the pub for a pint. These were folks who were used to being scorned and they became heroes.
New York City’s always struggled with where to dispose of its waste. For many years we dumped it in the ocean. That became unacceptable.
Ocean dumping was illegal already in the 1880’s but New York really was not capable of finding alternatives, so it took a US supreme court ruling that finally ended ocean dumping in New York in 1934. Robert Moses who was in his ascendancy as a city planner opened dozens of landfills and incinerators all over the city to handle the waste because now that it could no longer go into the ocean, they had to come up with something else.
We were running out of room in those landfills, so we needed to move to a different waste disposal system. So we moved very quickly once we closed that last landfill on Staten Island to these interim contracts where we are exporting our waste via truck.
New York City currently exports 85% of its waste to landfills.
It costs about $300m a year to do that and they’re across the region. The waste energy facility is in New Jersey, but we also landfills in Pennsylvania, Virginia and upstate New York.
Everything as normal, make sure you service all of your schools, service all of your baskets and have a safe and pleasant day.
One of the reasons why we are doing organics is we really take a hard look at what is in the waste stream.
We have an enormous amount of food waste in the leaf and yard waste in New York City. Organic material makes about 35% of our waste stream. We are spending $85m a year exporting it into landfills where it sits and releases harmful methane into the atmosphere. That organic material can be turned into valuable product. It can be turned into compost, which is an organic fertilizers that is used in farms and gardens.
It started about a year ago with a small community on Staten Island and a small community in the Bronx. It is since been expended into pretty large section of Brooklyn and Queens. We are serving 100,000 household which is about 240,000 people.
I get through the tiniest spots here Box Low. It’s like a constant video game, bobbing and weaving, you know, cutting through course. You learn how, how the other person works.
We don’t really like, I’m not like ahhh we’re gonna do this that. We just know how to work together, we’re working together all the time, every day we’re working together.
What about the smell?
You become immune to it.
And organic collection represents about a third of our waste what’s in your garbage. I don’t think people realize how much food they throw away. And obviously figuring out how to do organics is going to be very challenging in a city this size. Recycling can sometimes be confusing, what to put where, I think that is always our biggest challenge, it’s education.
What goes in the compost? What’s in there?
Egg shell lemon
I was really excited when I heard there was a pilot programme for the city that was really easy to implement. It took us about a month to change our habit. Wasn’t a problem at all. We have a lot less trash I mean, if you think about it for recycling paper, glass, metal, plastic and now food scraps. There is really not much left. It was just a matter of taking the food scraps instead of to the trash can over to the compost bin.
Depending on where you are located in the city, you might have fewer organics end up in a transfer station and from that transfer station the organic materials taken to a compost facility in upstate New York.
Dictory organic recycling is one of the truest forms of recycling it’s bringing unprocessed good to the earth again. Well us being a regional farm allows us to take in the organic waste and create it into the compost. We are fortunate enough that we are a diverse enough farm where we can grow products from that compost on sites and return it back into New York City, into restaurants and green markets.
The evolution of what we could call trash consciousness went from not paying it much attention to making it part of a national conversation and that moment helped us create all kinds of curbside recycling programmes all over the country, all over the world that are very effective in diverting trash from what would be a landfill or an incinerator to a repurposing or reuse or recycling facility. New York City has a lot of power and I would hope that we would strike to exercise that power in ways that change the relationship of the region to its wastes, to its recyclables to the way that a discard is understood as, you gonna bury it or you gonna figure out how reuse it.
All the topics are mentioned in the same order as they are on the list.