In the past, talking about garbage in New York City was left to disgruntled residents or comedians who were looking for something funny about the Big Apple to joke about.
In days gone by, when you opened something up, you simply threw away the packaging. You ate your dinner and threw away the scraps, and you tossed your ratty old sweatshirt, t-shirt or jeans in the dumpster when they had more holes in them than a chunk of Swiss cheese.
A Throw-Away Society
It’s not surprising then, that as a nation, Americans generate more waste than any other nation in the world with 4.6 pounds of municipal solid waste per person per day—fifty-five percent of which is contributed as residential garbage. It is estimated, for example, that Americans use 2,500,000 plastic bottles every hour, with the majority of them being thrown away.
And it’s no wonder that New York City’s eight million residents—as well as millions of businesses, construction projects and visitors—generate as much as 50,000 tons of garbage every day. You cannot walk down a city street without seeing those ubiquitous black garbage bags piled higher and higher upon the sidewalk.
We've come a long way from there in many regards. Today that journey of your old t-shirt and jeans or your Friday dinner leftovers entering the waste stream from garbage to landfill can take a very different route. That shirt or jeans can now be donated to a textile recycling center; the food scraps can now be composted; and every package you open is broken down and recyclable pieces are put in their appropriate containers.