Roosevelt Island, Where Trash Is Collected At 60MPHS

On Roosevelt Island, a narrow strip of land in New York's East River, no one takes their trash to the curb. They just drop it down a chute, anywhere on the island, and pneumatic pipes take care of the rest.

The infrastructural curiosity is the subject of Juliette Spertus' Fast Trash!, an exhibition that looks at Roosevelt Island's unique system in the context of how we might better design our cities in the future. The Island's Automated Vacuum Collection System sucked its first junk in 1975 and is used by over 12,000 of the island's inhabitants today. Here's Spertus on how the system works:

Garbage is deposited in a regular building garbage chute, which is gravity-fed, and piles up behind a valve at the bottom. With your average garbage chute, there is a compactor at the bottom that compacts the trash and puts it into bags that are then carried to the curb. Here, there is no compactor – there's just a plate and a network of tubes that lead to a facility at the end of the island...The valves open, the garbage drops in and is pulled back to the facility with an air speed of 60 miles per hour (the garbage itself, depending on the density, shoots through at 30-60 miles per hour). A cyclone separator then separates the heavy items from the light, after which a dust collector removes the dust from the air, and the all the garbage and dust drops into a compactor and is condensed into one of 10 containers in the facility that are then picked up by the Department of Sanitation.

Well that sounds easy. And for the most part, it is—the island's entire trash system is operated by only eight people. Spertus hopes the exhibition, which is currently open on Roosevelt Island and runs through May 23, will encourage people to stop and consider waste removal, a process that she says is both "invisible" and "essential." You can learn more about Roosevelt Island's high-speed trash tubes on Urban Omnibus and find out more about the exhibition on it's website. [Urban Omnibus via Adam Rogers]