New York discovers automatic garbage trucks, years after rest of world

Behold, New Yorkers! The garbage truck demonstration this week  (New York Department of Sanitation)
Behold, New Yorkers! The garbage truck demonstration this week (New York Department of Sanitation)

New Yorkers received a rude awakening this week after finding out that their newly-unveiled garbage system, one touted by city officials as a “historic win in the war on trash,” was old news even to small cities in America.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams, whose dislike for trash and rats has been well-documented, introduced the new trash collection system at a press conference on Thursday while the song, Empire State of Mind, blasted in the background.

That is, a system novel to New Yorkers, who have their black trash bags collected manually from piles on the sidewalk or from wheeled containers by sanitation workees who then throw them in the back of a truck.

Mr Adams even arrived at the event driving one of the new garbage trucks. He said they were one of first steps to make New York the “cleanest major city in the United States”. Mr Adams has also appointed a “rat czar” to lead the war on rats.

“The future of trash is here,” the side of the truck read.

But users on X, formerly Twitter, were quick to point out that automatic trash trucks have been in place for decades in other US cities. But New York, a city that polled as the second filthiest on the planet last year, is seemingly just coming to that realisation.

“New York is making a deal out of something that’s utterly mundane in places like Akron, Ohio and Boise, Idaho,” a user tweeted. “I don’t even live in a city and we have these!”

Mr Adams credited the new truck for New York’s bright future in the trash collection department.

“The new garbage truck we’re unveiling today — four years ahead of schedule — represents the future of New York City garbage collection,” he said in a statement. “It means we’ll be able to containerize trash from our large residential buildings, something people didn’t believe would be possible in our dense city.

The new system features a side-loading truck that can lift large stationary containers on the street. Starting 1 March, businesses in the city will be required to dispose of their trash in the rodent-proof containers. Later this year, the requirements will go into effect for low-density residential buildings that have one to nine units.

Manhattan Community Board 9 in West Harlem, a district with high-density residential buildings, will become the first full-district containerization pilot when the containers are fully implemented in Spring 2025.