New York City’s Trash Problem

The city had ambitious goals to reduce waste, but millions of tons of garbage are still sent to communities around the country each year.

1 minute read

January 9, 2020, 5:00 AM PST

By Camille Fink


Garbage Truck

Jason Lawrence / Flickr

As part of a series on New York City’s management of refuse, Sally Goldenberg and Danielle Muoio explore the city’s failed efforts to develop effective recycling and waste reduction programs.

In 2015, Mayor Bill de Blasio outlined a plan to drastically cut down the city’s waste. "The goal was to slash the 3.6 million tons of garbage the city shipped out in 2005 by 90 percent, so that by 2030 the five boroughs would export only a collective 360,000 tons of waste," say Goldenberg and Muoio.

But New York City continues to send huge amounts of waste to landfills and incinerators in communities across the country. In the past fiscal year, the city exported 3.25 million tons of residential waste, and recycling rates are low across the board.

The city depends on these facilities, especially after the closing of Fresh Kills, the Staten Island garbage dump. But residents in communities receiving New York City’s waste say they are suffering the public health and environmental consequences.

"Nearly two decades since Fresh Kills closed, there’s little indication the city is going to end its reliance on out-of-state landfills anytime soon. One former Bloomberg official warned that strategy is unsustainable," note Goldenberg and Muoio.

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