Out of Sight, Out of Mind.
NYC has the largest sanitation workforce in the world. Some 10,000 employees in the Sanitation Department are responsible for collecting more than 10,500 tons of solid waste daily. That’s 3,832,500 tons per year! If that number is hard to visualize, imagine 300,000 school buses or 25,000 blue whales. Yeah, I can’t either!
Every day a freight train of about 35 cars leaves the city to deliver our garbage to landfills in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and New Jersey. Many of these are rapidly reaching capacity so the cost is rising. NYC has closed all of its own landfills in the 1990s, the largest of which is currently in the process of becoming a park. Since then, DSNY has committed to sending zero waste to landfills by 2030. It’s an ambitious goal, given that only about 16% of New York’s waste is being recycled, and of the remaining 84% of solid waste, 80% ends up in a landfill.
However, great strides have been made in recent years. One such example is the composting program which aims to divert about 35% of residential waste that is organic material to a compost facility upstate where it’s turned into organic fertilizer and used to grow vegetables that go back to NYC! It used to cost the city $85,000,000 a year to bring organics to the landfill with the other solid waste, where they just sat releasing methane gas. The program is still expanding to reach more residents in all five boroughs.
Unfortunately, the brown bins haven’t reached my own neighborhood just yet, but there are convenient drop off locations available until then at parks and farmers markets. You can check here to see if there’s a location near you. Learning to recycle correctly and now removing food scraps from my trash bin has helped to significantly lower the amount of waste I personally produce. Understanding the amount of energy, planning, and effort it takes to collect waste and deliver it to another state where it will stay forever has also made me much more conscious of my consumption as well.
Being more involved in managing my own trash has made me more aware of what needs changing. It’s no longer out of sight, out of mind!