Is Garbage a Product of Bad Design?

A team of architects and planners has set out to prove that heaps of waste aren’t an immutable part of a city’s topography. From City Lab.

New York City is an island of imported goods. The city’s main export, though, is trash.

The Department of Sanitation (DSNY) heaves more than 12,000 tons of waste each day; private haulers are conscripted to lug some festering freight, too. Though some organics or recyclables are diverted, most of the debris ends up offloaded in landfills hundreds of miles away.

But before garbage is carted off, it’s a quality of life issue on the ground. With bags heaped high, curbs and sidewalks become canyons through towering landscapes of rubbish. On humid days, an acrid, prickly smell settles on certain corners, and the festering pylons have given rise to a whole genre of gripes. The noxiousness has become a local character trait. “Hot garbage wind, and other things that smell in the summer,” one Gothamist headline declared in 2016. On a list of “22 Smells New Yorkers Will Never Forget,” BuzzFeed offered a more detailed taxonomy of the trash itself, differentiating between the maleficence of recently deposited stacks and the juicy lots that had been marinating, rotting and baking in the midday sun.