Manpower vs. Machine Tips for Efficient Trash Compaction

Ever wonder what goes into getting rid of the garbage in your building, or what happens to the hundreds of bags we throw away every day? Probably not. But how well your building is equipped to process the tons of trash New Yorkers throw away each year can have a direct effect on your pocketbook.

In 1968, New York introduced Local Law 14 as part of a series of changes designed to reduce air pollution. Back then, fumes from automobiles and incinerators produced a stagnant plume of grey smoke that hovered over the city. Environmentalists became concerned and warned of health problems on future generations if changes were not made. Hence, the introduction of unleaded gasoline and the trash compactor.

Local Law 14 met with tremendous opposition. Incineration of trash was considered an efficient means of disposal and had been so for years. The caretaker simply waited until the chamber was filled, turned the burners on, and within minutes the trash was gone. Incinerators also occupied little space and left little food for the city's vermin population. The drawback, however, was that with so many buildings releasing smoke into the atmosphere, New York's air quality dramatically worsened.

St. Ann's Marketing Company, which later became HiCO, a division of the Bronx, N.Y.-based Refuse Systems Corp., was one of the first to design commercial compaction equipment. Faced with an enormous task of converting all its incinerators, New York City asked St. Ann's, a steel manufacturer, to design a compactor - powerful and economical enough that would be able to fit into the space formerly occupied by the incinerators. After a few tries, HiCO successfully came up with an appropriate design and produced the first compactor that was used in place of an incinerator.

By 1970, just over one-third of apartment buildings in New York City had converted to compaction systems. For economic reasons, some smaller buildings and owners shut down the incinerators but placed their garbage in cans. Today there remains approximately four percent of all buildings that have not yet converted to a compaction-type system.


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  • Frieda Silverstein, Board Pres. on Sunday, December 23, 2007 10:08 PM
    My building has had a HiCO since 1977 and it's still running great. Isabel is a delight and does everything she can to save us money. Her tip on keeping the reflector clean has saved us from needing service on many occasions.