Roosevelt Island’s High-Speed Underground Trash System Runs on Pneumatic Tubes

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An anachronism or a vision of the future? Photo: Image: Jonathan Snyder/Wired.com

When construction began on Roosevelt Island in the early seventies, the streets were too narrow for garbage collection. Thirty-five years later, the island's sanitation system still consists of the same network of twenty-inch tubes that collect garbage, zipping along at speeds of up to 60 mph from every floor of its sixteen residential towers to be centralized, compacted, and trucked away. A Swedish company called Envac originally built the system, and it's still serviced by Swedish contractors, called in when a bend in a tube causes the pipes to lose suction. "It is at once a simple and elegant solution to gathering trash, and an aging and complicated beast that needs a lot of upkeep," says Wired, who sent a crew to document the trash on its circuitous journey. And how do the island's 12,000 residents treat their grand dame of refuse? Pretty shabbily, shoving down Christmas trees, exercise equipment, computers, and vacuum cleaners. “This is New York City," says sanitation engineer Jerry Sorgente. "You tell people don’t, and they do.”

New York City’s Trash-Sucking Island [Wired]