We as a culture produce a lot of trash—and not just in the form of reality television shows, late night infomercials, and bad romance novels. Whether it’s the candy wrappers we toss into the trash bins outside on the sidewalk, the newspapers we take downstairs to the recycle bin, or half-eaten food we throw down the convector chute, we dispose of tons of trash annually. But where does it go from there? Put another way: how does a city of nine million people take out its trash?
Most of us don’t think twice about what happens to our garbage after we dispose of it. Sure, some of us might be a little annoyed if our building institutes a more rigorous recycling program and we now have to split our bottles and cans into four bins instead of just two, or we might be a little put out by that rumbling garbage truck at the crack of dawn, or worry about what to do with our old, no-longer-usable, printers, computers and cell phones. But that's probably the extent of our consideration.
“Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s PlaNYC 2030 initiative—with its focus on six of the principal areas affecting green building, namely land use, water, transportation, air quality, energy efficiency and climate change—has certainly become one of the nation’s model sustainability plans,” says Attorney Peter Zlotnick, a partner with the Manhattan law firm of Kagan Lubic Lepper Finkelstein & Gold, LLP who specializes in green building practices and litigation. “It does not focus on residential recycling and waste management. With the closing of Fresh Kills landfill, the city faces an enormous financial, political and environmental crisis with few—if any—ready solutions.”
So the question remains: What happens to the garbage after it leaves our homes or our offices? Well, by all accounts, the New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY) is the first link in the chain. It's a huge municipal government enterprise, and has a huge task ahead of it.
According to information provided by DSNY spokesperson Kathy Dawkins, the department collects more than 10,500 tons of refuse and 1,760 tons of recyclables a day. It has more than 7,000 uniformed workers and supervisors, 2,340 collection trucks, 450 street sweepers, 2398 front-end loaders, 465 salt/sand spreaders (remember the blizzard of 2005) and more.