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64,000+ tons waste are collected from NYC streets weekly. Do you know what happens when it leaves your curb?

Charged with the efficient management of solid waste, New York City’s Department of Sanitation operates 59 district garages and manages a fleet of 2,022 rear-loading collection trucks and 450 mechanical brooms. Each week, approximately 64,000 tons of household and institutional waste are collected. In 2009, the average truck collected 9.9 tons of refuse and 5.6 tons of recyclables per shift. But public awareness of what happens to that trash once it leaves the curb is limited. So, to shed some light on the journey from trashcan to landfill — past, present and future — Urban Omnibus talked with Elizabeth Royte, author of the 2005 book Garbage Land, who offers a snapshot of how New Yorkers have treated their trash from the 18th century onwards.

The immense distances trash travels (and the amount of cost and energy used to transport, transfer, recycle, incinerate or dump it) pose obvious questions about how we expend environmental resources in support of our country’s vast consumption practices.

Visit Urban Omnibus, an online project of the Architecture League of New York, to view the City of Systems film series which offers a poetic peek behind the scenes of some of the complex systems that enable New York City to function.

The series is made possible by IBM as part of its commitment to use technology and information to help build more sustainable and intelligent cities.

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December 29, 2011
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Great post. So many don’t know what happens to their waste after it is left to the curb. People also don’t know what should be included with their regular trash and what they should call a junk removal crew for. Junk removal crews can be very helpful and easy to use. I’ve started using a junk removal company more often so I know that they are doing the best they can to make sure everything is removed properly.

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Vineeta, thank you for your post. More and more, efficiency is important as individuals, communities, countries in a global economy. I have seen access to recycling grow in cities, at my grocery store, in my county with one big blue bin I wheel out to the curb. I feel good and it is easy. I also like the idea that I am creating a job or helping to keep one, futhering the opportunity and business of waste management. My daughters sing from school…

“It really isn’t garbage ’til you mix it all together.
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Then you get to use it all another day.” …

Good to teach waste management at such a young age. Good for them, good business.

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