Trash Inc. Documents the Big Business of Trash

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Have you ever gone to throw your trash or recycling away and wondered where “away” really is?

CNBC’s new documentary, “Trash Inc: The Secret Life of Garbage” takes a look at “away” and what it looks like around the world, from New York City to Hawaii to Beijing.

According to CNBC's "Trash Inc.," the waste industry is worth about $52 billion. Photo: Jennifer Berry, Earth911.com

The industry, worth about $52 billion, is booming. In the U.S. we produce 250 million tons of trash each year – enough to cover the state of Texas…twice.

According to the show, the largest sanitation department in the world is in New York City, home to 8 million people and nearly 12,000 tons of garbage and 2,000 tons of recycling produced every day.

Upkeep of the system is expensive. For example, Base salary for an NYC sanitation worker starts at $70,000. New trucks start at $250,000 each, and the NYC Sanitation Department needs 1,500 of them to keep it running. Additionally, the city pays nearly $330 million each year to export its waste to other states.

“They have to pay us, they have to pay for the upkeep of the trucks, they have to pay for gas, tolls,” says one sanitation worker. ” So that one piece of trash you’re throwing out costs the city millions of dollars, which a lot of people don’t realize. They throw it to the curb, it’s gone […] like it was magic.”

The show travels to the largest landfill in the country (the size of 2,000 football fields) where Las Vegas’ waste goes, to China where a solid waste collection infrastructure is greatly needed, to Hawaii where plastic in the ocean is washing up on its shores, and then to South Carolina, where 60 percent of the energy required for a South Carolina BMW plant is supplied by landfill gas.

CNBC’s one-hour documentary airs Wednesday, Sept. 29 at 9 p.m. ET/PT and looks to definitely be worth the space on your DVR.

Check out a preview of the show below.

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