Did you know that parts of New York City have a vacuum-driven garbage-collection system that literally sucks trash through pipes under the streets to a central disposal location–and has had it for 35 years?
Man, I want a trash can in my kitchen that just gets the trash sucked out of it so I don’t have to take it out all the damn time.
The Avac is New York’s only pneumatic garbage-collection system. Designed in the late nineteen-sixties to service Roosevelt Island’s housing developments, the system runs under all the island’s high-rises. When people throw their garbage down the trash chutes, it piles up for several hours, until a trapdoor opens, sucking the waste into a big underground pipe. Then a complex system of air valves propels the garbage through the pipe at speeds of up to sixty miles per hour. When the trash resurfaces at the Avac center, a squat building at the northern tip of the island, it is dumped into two silo-shaped cyclones, where it is spun like cotton candy and then whooshed down chutes into huge containers.
Ron Marli is one of the people who control the Avac’s suction valves; on a normal day, he “pulls” between five and seven tons of garbage. Last year, though, construction began on two thousand new housing units on the southern end of Roosevelt Island, and now the whole Avac system has to be expanded. This is not a simple undertaking: the machine is Swedish, and it is maintained by a Swedish company called Envac, which has been called “the world’s largest pneumatic garbage systems maintenance company.” The nearest Envac repairman, Frederik Olsson, is stationed in Toronto.