Home News Rigid truths about garbage: NYC gets smart on waste with plastic bins

Rigid truths about garbage: NYC gets smart on waste with plastic bins

While Mayor Adams didn’t invent the trash can, he’s made real progress in the war on rats with an official city bin that will be required for all residential properties with 1-9 units as of this November. Bravo!

The 45-gallon bin the mayor unveiled, complete with big wheels and a top that latches and the seal of the city on the side, costs $53.01; the 35-gallon model will set you back $45.88. Go ahead and check on Amazon — you won’t find high-quality bins for less. And those wouldn’t match the recommended green and blue recycling bins, or the brown composting bin. (An editorial for another day is exploring the benefits and costs of plastics recycling as scientists are concluding that the process is almost certainly responsible for rising quantities of microplastic waste in groundwater, and in human beings.)

No, we almost certainly didn’t need to pay McKinsey consultants $4 million to help get us this far, but at least it’s nice to know that, unlike other reports commissioned from such firms, this one didn’t just wind up in the recycling bin. Recommendations were actually put into action that’ll improve the quality of life of New Yorkers, and pretty quickly at that.

Summertime in New York City is marvelous, even with climate change. The pools are great when open and properly staffed, the arts are especially alive, and the five boroughs feel freer all around. But the downsides are real, including gun violence that often spikes when it heats up, and a smell of rotting garbage that seems to follow us around every corner. Before the sanitation strike of 1968, Oscar the Grouch-style cans containing most garbage were the norm. Those then gave way to bags piled atop one another: easier to toss into the back of a truck, perhaps, but prone to smelling and being far less attractive to humankind and far more attractive to rodentkind.

Over the years, New York City has twisted itself into pretzels considering things like mint-scented bags to repel rats rather than doing the obvious thing, which is making people put their rotting refuse in bins, as other cities and suburbs and pretty much everyone else have been doing for generations.

It’s better to play catchup and get teased for it, as Adams and Sanitation Commissioner Jessie Tisch are doing, then not to play catchup at all. As a result, by the end of the year, most of the city’s trash will be contained — more out of sight and out of mind of people and rats alike. There’s further to go as the city figures out how to put remaining garbage in bins, but we’re getting there.

Adams is famous for being Captain Ahab to the city’s rats. In 2019, as Brooklyn borough president, he proudly demonstrated a bucket designed to drown the vermin. As the city tries a bunch of different things to reduce their numbers, his obsession seems to be paying off. In the 10 blocks of upper Manhattan where, under a pilot program, trash is in sealed containers rather than sitting on the curb in bags, rat sightings are way down.

We don’t need to see rats scurry across our paths on sidewalks and shrug our shoulders. We can change our behavior and reduce their numbers. Even in complicated cities with huge bureaucracies, causes have effects.


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