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All Discard Studies

Week 4 readings

Where New York’s 14 Million Tons of Trash Go

Essentially the first memory I have from my move to NYC is one of garbage: as my parents were driving up to my dorm, we stopped to wait for a garbage pickup. The workers loaded the truck, then started the compression, and gallons and gallons of garbage juice squirted out onto the street in the August heat. It’s an utterly ungracious/inelegant way of collecting trash.

Urban design & environmental issues & waste collection are deeply interlinked. SoHo is a neighborhood near-ruined by cars: massive crowds constantly wait for slow lights for a few cars to get through. Meanwhile it’s the pedestrians, most coming via public transit, that are spending the money in the neighborhood that brings the city so much tax revenue. There’s no doubt in my mind designing that neighborhood without passenger cars, with alleyways for deliveries & elegant waste collection, would reduce emissions, increase tax revenue & health outcomes, and result in more efficient waste collection.

One Man’s Trash

I love that the trucks have carrying capacity for mongo; if it’s against department policy I’m curious why that exists. The one piece of art I have in my dorm room, a handmade replica of a Keith Haring painting, my uncle found in the garbage on his Upper West Side street and saved for me. It was a wonderful gift for my moving-in that was totally free.

There’s some societal awareness that people like doormen, security guards, secretaries, stylists, and other service workers know intimate details of their employers. The comment that “usually there’s 10 bags, now there’s 25 bags” reflects a type of knowing most people have zero knowledge of, that anyone is paying attention to the waste they create. It’s purposefully out of mind for Americans, but someone else has to keep paying attention to it until it’s burned or in the ground, and then the costs are simply externalized.

Picking Up


  • How do garages forecast the amount of trash and therefore labor needed per-neighborhood? Is it purely a yearly schedule or are there more detailed analytics?
  • How much software has worked its way into the planning and pickup process in NYC?
  • What do san workers eat for lunch?
  • How are the times of day of collection decided?
  • The uniforms & years-based hierarchy paint a picture of a military-like organization. How does DSNY compare to discipline & structure in FDNY or military?