The Recycling Cycle New Methods, New Incentives

New York City is trashy. Literally. Every day, the people living in the Big Apple produce hundreds of tons of trash—12,000 tons, according to GrowNYC, a nonprofit organization that strives to improve New York via environmental programs. That is enough trash each day to fill up the Empire State Building. The diesel trucks that carry Manhattan’s garbage rack up almost 8 million miles every year, which is the equivalent of driving more than 312 times around the earth.

Once all that garbage is carted away from their driveways, curbs and stoops, however, most people don’t give it much further thought. It has to go somewhere, though, and most often, it goes to landfills, transfer stations, and treatment plants throughout New York State, or onto trains and barges and sent even farther afield.

In New York City, where land is so pricey and space is so tight, it’s not surprising that the trash is taken far away from the inner city—but that does not mean that New Yorkers shouldn’t care about the afterlife of their trash. Because while most everyone is happy to get their garbage off their hands, they tend to be less enthused about having those aforementioned landfills, transfer stations, or treatment facilities sited anywhere near their homes or communities.

It is incredibly important to know where your building’s garbage and recycling is going, and to educate yourself about new waste and recycling practices. After all, a landfill or processing center could be proposed to open near your neck of the woods—and landfills are one of the most potent contributors to global warming, responsible for 36 percent of all methane emissions in the United States. Or, perhaps a recycling hub could start in your own building’s basement. Or maybe you’ve got an electronic recycling box in your basement already (most big buildings already do). You should know about it.

Gotham's Garbage

There are 59 different waste management districts in New York City, says Belinda Mager, assistant director with the New York City Department of Sanitation’s (DSNY)'s Bureau of Public Information and Community Affairs. Each district and bureau throughout New York City has a different location for trash drop-offs.

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