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OpinionColumnistsJeff Vasishta

The dirt about NYC's great garbage mess

In the Big Apple, sanitation is big money. 

A recently returned trash can at the Eight

A recently returned trash can at the Eight Street R subway station in Manhattan on March 28, 2017. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

I hate recycling and garbage days in NYC.

It’s not that I’m unhygienic or don’t care for the environment, but the pickups are such a pain.

The night before garbage is collected, I sort plastics from paper, metals and regular waste. But by the time the garbage truck rolls down the street at 8 a.m., my refuse is often refused by the Sanitation Department.

That’s because all manner of people and things go through my trash at night. First, there are the rats. It’s common to find my bags torn apart in the morning with gaping holes and garbage spilling into the street. These are given a wide berth by sanitation, leaving me to clean up the mess, place everything in another bag and hope for better luck next time.

Can collectors do a similar job on my recycling. Heaven forbid they see something shiny and metallic in there. They rip open the clear bags, take what they want and keep it movin’. I’ll have to deal with the fallout, literally. And you guessed it, the Sanitation Department just rolls on by.

As if this weren’t bad enough, many has been the morning when I’ve headed outside to see someone else’s incorrectly sorted recyclables or construction debris dumped in front of my house. This is probably the most annoying of all.

In addition, I have tenants, which means I’m responsible for their garbage and my own. The net result is a fear of staying away from the house for too long, lest I be hit with a mortgage payment worth of Sanitation Department tickets on my return.

In many suburbs, garbage collection day is a different animal entirely. Trucks lift the garbage container off the ground and empty it into the truck. It hardly touches human hands. That just won’t fly in NYC, where a good-looking bin is coveted like jewelry and kept chained to the house.

In the Big Apple, sanitation is big money. Many city inspectors sift through trash like forensic detectives, keen to meet their ticket quotas. Last year, the department issued close to 500,000 summonses.

House prices in my neighborhood may be in the million-dollar-plus range, but when it comes to garbage, it’s still everyone for himself.

 Jeff Vasishta is a writer and music journalist who lives in Crown Heights.

 

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