Trash Mountains in NYC

NYC Trash at 125th St.

New Yorkers are complaining about trash now that most of the snow has melted.

Since trash in NYC is typically so visible, it surprises me that people are getting so heated about it.

In NYC black bags of residential trash are piled up on the sidewalks and picked up curbside by rear load garbage trucks. There are no back alleys or dumpsters or wheeled toters for trash storage. It’s all out in the open all the time.

Residential trash pick-up is generally once or twice per week. However, due to the recent snow storm, trash pick-up was suspended and one to two weeks of trash are piling up. The common complaints thrown around by the locals are: It’s smelly. It’s unsightly. It will bring out the rats.

I love situations like this because it highlights our disconnected relationship with trash. We put out the trash at night and in the morning, poof, it’s gone. Like magic. We never really see the cumulative effect of our daily waste generation. Of course people are aware of landfills and incineration, and know that the garbage goes somewhere. But no one really cares where, as long as it is taken away from them.

While I’d like New Yorkers to look at the mountains of black bags and think, “Gosh, we really should reduce how much waste we generate,” at least they’re getting a reminder that trash can quickly become a big issue in a big city.


About Amy Marpman

Director of Recycling Services at Great Forest, Inc. in NYC. Continually finding the balance of idealism with the practical realities that make or break recycling programs.
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