Trash: it’s such a big part of our lives, but the machinery of managing it has remained hidden from many New Yorkers. This is changing.

For years, environmental justice and community organizations have argued that a handful of neighborhoods are bearing the brunt of the city’s waste management infrastructure.

The City’s step-by-step implementation of the 2006 Solid Waste Management Plan is, in part, an attempt to respond to those concerns. And now, the mounting cost of moving trash out of New York City, shrinking landfill space across the country, and the City’s efforts to expand what we recycle, have all helped to put our waste into the middle of the public discourse.

We’ve collected a few of the many interesting facts about the city’s waste stream. Because it is such a complex topic with often dueling statistics, we’ve also included the source from which we drew each fact.

12 Things Worth Knowing About NYC’s Garbage

      1. $2.3 billion: the annual cost of collecting and disposing of New York City’s residential and commercial waste.
        [Citizens Budget Commission, 12 Things New Yorkers Should Know About Their Garbage]
      2. 10,000 tons of residential trash are collected daily by the New York City Department of Sanitation—that’s 3.8 million tons per year!
      3. Another 4 million tons of trash are generated every year by the city’s businesses.

        Trash day. Photo credit: Charley Lhasa
        Trash day. Photo credit: Charley Lhasa
      4. 76 percent of the city’s residential trash is sent to landfills (in states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia and South Carolina), 14 percent is recycled, and 10 percent is converted to energy.
      5. Over thirty percent of the city’s residential waste stream is organic material that can be composted (food scraps, paper towels and napkins, yard waste, etc.).
        [ Organics Collections & Drop-Offs]
      6. The DSNY has 7,200 uniformed sanitation workers and supervisors; along with 2,230 collection trucks, and 450 mechanical street sweepers.
        [NYC Department of Sanitation]
      7. New York City has 58 waste transfer stations, where garbage trucks transfer their loads to tractor-trailer trucks, railcars, or marine barges for export. A single barge can carry as much garbage as 28 tractor trailer trucks.
        [HabitatMap, Map of NYC Waste Transfer Stations & Newtown Creek Alliance, Map of Waste Transfer Stations]
      8. The South Bronx and the neighborhoods surrounding Newtown Creek host a combined 32 waste transfer stations. Collectively, these stations handle over 60 percent of the waste moving through the city’s transfer stations.

        Trash in Times Square. Photo credit: m01229
        Trash in Times Square. Photo credit: m01229
      9. The area around Newtown Creek (connecting Brooklyn and Queens) has 19 waste transfer stations, the largest such cluster in New York City.
      10.  It cost the City $251/ton to collect residential trash in FY 2012, compared to $629/ton to collect recyclables. One reason for this is that the City has been collecting paper separately from glass, metal and plastic. In the past seven years, City recycling collection costs per ton almost doubled as waste diversion fell.
      11. A new facility in Sunset Park, Brooklyn could lower recycling costs by accepting the majority of the city’s co-mingled recyclable curbside trash, and eliminate 260,000 DSNY vehicle miles traveled every year. Recyclables from Manhattan will be delivered to the plant by barge from a to-be-constructed transfer station at Gansevoort Street and the Hudson River.
        [CBC & Sims Municipal Recycling State-of-the-Art Material Recovery Facility in Sunset Park, Brooklyn]
      12. 148,000 storm drains trap NYC’s street litter before it reaches sewer lines and, ultimately, area waterways. In addition, a fleet of five skimmer boats, along with booms surrounding 23 major sewer outfalls throughout the city, are used to capture any debris that makes it through the drains.
        [NYC Department of Environmental Protection Clean Streets Clean Beaches Campaign]