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A brief history of New York’s waste management
Waste management problems are nothing new for New York. As described in a 1657 ordinance, when New York was still called New Amsterdam,
“…many burghers and inhabitants throw their rubbish, filth, ashes, dead animals and suchlike things into the public streets to the great inconvenience of the community.”
A snapshot from two centuries later depicts a city overrun with horse manure, posing a health hazard for residents.
Through most of its history, up until the mid-1900’s, New York’s primary method for disposing of its waste was simply to dump it into the ocean. At one point, as much as 80% of New York’s garbage ended up out at sea. However, in what was surely its most enduring waste management initiative, New York City used some of its garbage (mostly ash, rubble, and other debris) to create artificial land, thereby increasing its own size.
The original shoreline of Manhattan (yellow) versus the current shoreline (dark blue)
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