Tag Archives: Fresh Kills

Stalking Garbage

Chasing TruckBy Clare Trapasso

The garbage truck speeds up and I begin to run. I race down the sidewalk of the Lower East Side weaving through pedestrians. I’m stopped by a light, cars zoom by in front of me and the thundering truck turns left a block away from where I am standing. I should have known they were trying to lose me after the driver flashed me a sardonic smile and waved. I just didn’t think he’d slam on the gas pedal so forcefully .

I’m trying to follow the trail of trash by foot, train and taxi — from the moment New York City Department of Sanitation workers pick up the garbage on the curb outside of my apartment until it reaches its final destination, the Covanta Essex Facility in Newark, New Jersey. There it will be stuffed into a boiler and used to fuel the production of electricity.

My journey started around 7:40 a.m. when a garbage truck rumbled by. Johnny, a thin fellow with a thick, brown mustache, gets out of the white Department of Sanitation vehicle and starts hauling the plump, black garbage bags over his shoulder to the truck. When I tell him I plan to follow the truck on foot, he seems relieved to have some company. He’s been doing this for over 20 years

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Fresh Kills

covanta-essex-facility-tipping-floor-best-shot-by-clare-trapasso.jpgBy Michael Luke

On the western edge of Staten Island is the hamlet of Travis, population of approximately 2,000. Travis exudes small-town America, a hidden spot tucked away from the teeming city. The children of Travis yell and play on the streets amid small ranch houses. A large butte rises several hundred feet above the town, covered in green grass, surrounded by a small swamp, dotted by trees. Blackbirds glide in gusts of wind along its face. The hill looming over the town is a reminder of the days when this was the final destination of New York City’s millions of tons of trash.

Ten years ago, the Travis mound was part of the Fresh Kills Landfill—at 2,200 acres, the largest landfill in the world at that time—the place where most, if not all, of the garbage of the city went. The landfill is composed of four main mounds, which range from 90 to 225 feet. The biggest mound is taller than the Statue of Liberty and can be seen by the naked eye from space. When the dump was open, the garbage produced a noxious, rotting stench that fouled the air of Staten Island.

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