What will garbage disposal of the future look like?

A Swedish company may install a system of vacuum-operated tubes to collect garbage in certain areas of the city, according to Forbes. Private developers, neighborhood groups and other agencies have expressed an interest in using these garbage vacuums near Chelsea, in Manhattan, and underneath the Coney Island boardwalk or the High Line. The vacuum system already exists in a part of Roosevelt Island.

This isn’t the first time engineers and urban planners have come up with futuristic plans for ridding New York City of millions of tons of trash collected by the Department of Sanitation every year.

We want to know: What other innovative plans has the city considered for disposing garbage?

If you have information or insight to share, please write us, tweet @thenyworld, or comment below.

What we found

PlaNYC 2030, the Bloomberg administration’s sustainability vision for the city, outlines many of the new initiatives under consideration for solid waste disposal. The overall goal is to divert 75 percent of garbage destined for landfill to other uses by 2030. Here are just some of the interesting ways NYC is trying to dealing with its annual 14 million tons of garbage:

Pay as you throw: In New York City, people pay the same local taxes for garbage collection, regardless of how much waste each individual household generates. In other large cities around the world, people pay for exactly how much garbage they produce. The less you generate, the less you pay. Under “pay as you throw,” recycling is free. According to PlaNYC, in 2006 only 30 U.S. cities used some version of pay-as-you-throw. New York City is currently evaluating how such a system might work.

Dewatering garbage: “Dewatering” a process that removes water from food and then deploys bacteria to eat the scraps. When used to dispose of commercial food, the weight and volume of garbage is significantly reduced. Pilot programs are currently underway.

Conversion technologies: In Europe and Asia, garbage is converted into an in-demand resource: electricity. Microorganisms break down solid waste via anaerobic digestion, a process that produces a biogas that when combusted produces electricity. The Bloomberg administration plans to solicit proposals to pilot these programs in New York City.

The city’s waste-to-energy proposal has drawn criticism from some environmental groups, which warn that the process will generate long-term pollution. “People fail to realize the entire waste doesn’t disappear,” said Eddie Bautista, executive director at the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance. “What’s left behind of the original material, post-processing, is now hazardous waste because the stuff that’s been thermally treated and the ensuing gas burnt off for energy, that process increases the concentration of chemical pollutants.”

A better alternative, said Bautista, would be anaerobic digestion, a cleaner more natural alternative to thermal processing whose odor and other side effects can be easily mitigated.

While PlaNYC aims for full realization by 2030, in the meantime the city has taken smaller steps to reducing waste, including efforts to beef up recycling through active education campaigns and the construction of the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal, a 100,000-square foot facility that will process 250,000 tons of city-collected recyclable material.

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