Map: Where Are the Trashiest New Yorkers?
No, not that kind of trashy – we’re talking here about what New York City neighborhoods produce the most municipal solid waste per person.
In September of 2011, the City of New York Department of Sanitation (DSNY) monitored the amount of refuse, paper recycling, and metal, glass and plastic recycling that was collected in each of New York’s 59 community districts. This was no small feat given that New Yorkers produce approximately 3.5 million tons of trash every year – a figure that balloons to more than 14 million tons when non-residential waste is thrown in.
Map: Refuse Collected Per Capita by NYC Community District, September, 2011 (hover over map for data)
During the month the DSNY measured, almost 274,000 tons of residential waste was collected across New York City’s five boroughs. Most of this trash eventually ends up in landfills as far away as Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Virginia. But its lingering effects extend much farther than its smell: exporting the city’s solid waste causes air pollution, emits tons of greenhouse gases and costs taxpayers some $336 million per year.
So what neighborhood gets the dubious distinction of being the trashiest? The winner is Staten Island’s community district three, whose residents produced 99.4 pounds of refuse and recycling per person. And the locality with the lightest litter? Manhattan’s 11th district in Harlem, which weighed in at a svelte 43.5 pounds per person.
The good news is that New Yorkers still generate less garbage per capita than the average American. Despite a penchant for take out, New York City residents produce just 3 pounds of waste per day compared to 4.4 pounds for the average American. But when it comes to recycling the Big Apple is in the dumps. NYC’s recycling rate is a paltry 15 percent, less than half the national average of 34 percent and decades behind San Francisco’s 80 percent landfill diversion rate.
But the city has lofty goals for the future of its garbage. By further reducing the amount of trash produced, bolstering recycling, and streamlining the waste management system, the PlaNYC initiative aims to divert 75 percent of the city’s solid waste away from landfills by 2030. And in 2013 a pilot program crossed New York’s final recycling frontier: collecting organic materials. Former mayor Michael Bloomberg’s “Food Waste Challenge” calls for residents and restaurants to divert half of their food waste – which could be composted or even converted into energy – away from landfills. Sanitation officials hope to expand the food waste program to include the entire city by 2016.
Learn more about waste and recycling in New York City:
Scientific American: New York City Bets on a Recycling Comeback
New York Magazine: City Trash by the Numbers
Gotham Gazette: The Garbage Glut
PlaNYC: Solid Waste
Huffington Post: NYC Takes the Garbage Out, Steve Cohen
The Earth Institute: Waste-to-Energy Research and Technology Council
State of the Planet: What Happens to All That Plastic?