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The Everything Guide to Trash

More than you ever wanted to know.

Trash from Ash Avenue in Flushing.  

New York City garbage—in all its stinking, steaming, rat-feasting glory—is having a moment. During these, his final few months in office, Mayor Bloomberg has made trash a top priority. In April, he announced the city’s most sweeping expansion of its recycling initiative in 25 years, introducing a hard-plastics program and, two weeks ago, calling for a composting edict that will make it mandatory for New Yorkers to separate their food scraps from the rest of their waste by 2016. And that’s to say nothing of other garbage goings-on: Bloomberg’s plan to ban Styrofoam packaging, his controversial decision to reopen a waste-transfer station on the Upper East Side, and this fall’s Sunset Park unveiling of what will be North America’s largest household-recycling plant. While it remains to be seen just how gung ho New Yorkers will feel when banana peels and chicken bones are festering on the countertops of their cramped studio apartments, our relationship to what we throw out is about to change drastically. Here, a guide to chucking anything and everything, a survey of the sleekest gizmos in Garbageland, a peek into what New Yorkers have been tossing for the last 400 years (15,000 dead horses!), and more.

Reporting by Hana R. Alberts, Matthew Giles, Jillian Goodman, Alex Pasternack, Jessica Silvester, Alexis Swerdloff, Max Thorn, and Emma Whitford.