Garbage in New York City



Imagine it's the year 1905. The streets in New York City are full of trash. There are no garbage trucks or garbage men, so people throw all their garbage into the street - including the waste made in their bathrooms! Pigs roam the neighborhoods eating trash, and the smell is almost unbearable. When NYC's residents can't bear the filth and stink any longer, they start throwing all the garbage into the ocean.

Even though the city no longer leaves garbage in the streets, garbage removal and reduction are still a big problem for New York City. As the largest city in the world’s most wasteful country, New York City is home to 8.4 million people who throw away 14 million tons of garbage and construction waste every year. That’s enough to cover 100,000 football fields in trash bags.

So where does it all go? Once your local garbage truck picks it up, your garbage starts a long journey by truck, train, and boat. There is nowhere In New York City to dump and bury the trash, so the city ships its garbage to other U.S. states and even to China! This costs the city 1.5 billion dollars every year. Imagine how many schools that money could fund or how many streets and bridges it could fix. What would you do for the city with that money?

The New York City Mayor’s office has a plan to solve the garbage problem: the Zero Waste Initiative. The Zero Waste Initiative’s goal is that by 2030 everything New Yorkers throw away will be either composted, recycled, or reused. This will save the city money and be better for the environment. But for this to work, everyone – residents and visitors alike – needs to help.


What is in your garbage? For one week, take note of what you throw away. At the end of the week, review your list. Was there anything you threw away every day (ex. plastic straws or bags, food scraps)? How can you stop using those things? Or can you reuse them? If you want an extra challenge, can you make it through one day without throwing anything away?

Cool Fact

Each day 7,500 employees and 2,000 trucks from the Department of Sanitation are out and about to collect NYC’s trash.

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