Roosevelt Island's Pneumatic Garbage System

On New York City's Roosevelt Island, residents have long lived free from the roar of garbage trucks. Instead they use Avacs, an island-wide system of pneumatic tubes that moves trash to a central location for processing.

Read Time: 1 minute

August 21, 2015, 11:00 AM PDT

By Philip Rojc @PhilipRojc


Roosevelt Island

Phillip Capper / Flickr

For Roosevelt Island residents, garbage disposal is as simple as dropping the stuff down the chute. The island's Automatic Vacuum Assisted Collections System (Avacs) does the rest. Avacs is a "pneumatic tube system, one of the largest in the world. It sucks up roughly 10 tons of trash from the island's 12,000 residents each day."

"Despite its futuristic job, Avacs, largely unchanged since it began operating in 1976, is surprisingly mechanical. There are no computer screens, just six dials for pressure and air speed [...] The employees operating Avacs have never collected trash from the streets, and instead have backgrounds as mechanics and maintenance workers more familiar with boilers and centrifuges than garbage bags."

The article discusses some of the system's drawbacks, including residents who toss in Christmas trees and furniture. "When serious problems occur, such as damage to the tubes [...] a crew from Sweden, a world leader in pneumatic garbage, makes the trans-Atlantic journey to slide through the tubes and patch holes."

Now, New York stands to gain another Avacs. "The Related Companies, developer of the Riverwalk complex, likes Avacs so much that it is installing one at Hudson Yards on the West Side of Manhattan. There, three tubes will handle trash, recycling and possibly compost."

Monday, August 3, 2015 in The New York Times

Chicago Commute

The Right to Mobility

As we consider how to decarbonize transportation, preserving mobility, especially for lower- and middle-income people, must be a priority.

January 26, 2023 - Angie Schmitt

Aerial view of dense single-family homes in neighborhood still under construction

How Virginia Counties Use Zoning to Stifle Development

Some state legislators are proposing action at the state level as counties block development using zoning and development requirements even as housing prices rise sharply in the region.

January 23, 2023 - The Virginia Mercury

New York City Coronavirus

The Once-in-a-Generation Opportunity to Remake Downtown

Urban cores around the country were transforming into live, work, and play destinations before the pandemic. The pandemic was a setback for this transformation, but it could also be a rare opportunity. It’s up to city leadership to seize it.

January 23, 2023 - The Washington Post

Rendering of red seven-story student housing building with students walking in open grassy plaza in front of building

L.A. Times Editorial Board Calls for CEQA Reform

The Board argues that the environmental law, while important, has too often been ‘weaponized’ by NIMBY groups to delay or halt housing development.

January 31 - Los Angeles Times

Seattle buses in line at a depot with Seattle skyline in background

Seattle Brings Free Transit to Public Housing

Linking transit programs to housing can lower administrative costs and streamline the process for riders.

January 31 - Route Fifty

Broad street in downtown Columbus, Ohio with two pedestrians in crosswalk

Columbus Could Lower Downtown Speed Limits

The city council will vote on a proposal to lower speed limits to 25 miles per hour to improve safety and make downtown more walkable and welcoming to pedestrians.

January 31 - The Columbus Dispatch