Where 3.2 Million Tons of Garbage Goes

More garbage is produced annually in New York than in any other city, at approximately 14 million tons. Fortunately, New York relies on a complex ecosystem of waste management to address these issues. This ecosystem consists of two city agencies, three different forms of transportation (trucks, trains, and barges), 1,668 city garbage pickup trucks, 248 other private waste hauling businesses, and a vast network of temporary and permanent facilities that stretch halfway around the globe.

One of the City’s recycling handling and recovery facilities, specialized factories that separate and sort the recyclable materials, receives waste that includes paper, metal, glass, and plastic.

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The route of recyclable waste in New York diverges in various directions from this point. It will be mainly marketed to regional raw material processors (paper mills or smelters), while some will be sent abroad, usually to China or India.

Some will be marketed through garbage brokers, and various items will be segregated and sold to their intended customers, such as crates to a Coca-Cola bottling plant and beer kegs to Anheiser-Busch. The solid waste management facilities in New York are obliged to provide yearly reports that list the origin and final destination of all incoming and exiting waste. With this information, it is possible to create a relatively complete image of the route taken by New York’s garbage.

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