Scooping Up The Subway’s Garbage

By Al Barbarino and Kyle McGovern

Late night commuters know the feeling well: after a long wait, a light shines through the subway tunnel, but passenger cars don’t pull in. Instead, it’s three flatbed cars hauling trash.

Eight of those trash trains collect waste from the hundreds of subway stations throughout the city. In a single day, their dumpsters carry 40 tons of trash, according to Charles Seaton, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

That’s more per day than Boston collects per a week from its subways, according to their transit authority’s spokesman.

Given the NYC’s subway system annual ridership of 1.6 billion in 2010, regular clean ups are necessary. Straphangers produce plenty of trash. More than 14,000 tons of it last year, Seaton wrote in an e-mail.

That’s equivalent to the weight of about 3,071 adult elephants.

To prepare the bags for the trash trains, there are 2,500 station cleaners responsible for removing trash from subway platforms, booths and stairwells, while a separate team is charged with removing trash from the tracks.

In the video below, an MTA transit cleaner who works at the 7th Ave. station in Brooklyn talks about the process and his daily duties:

Once the collections are complete, the trash trains deliver the garbage to one of four train yards in Northern Manhattan; Wakefield, the Bronx; Sunset Park, Brooklyn; or Corona, Queens.

Every day, the MTA’s refuse and recycling vendor picks up the trash from the four train yards and transports it to the All American Recycling Corporation in Jersey City, where it’s sorted and recycled. Over and over and over again.

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