Garbage Crisis

September 11, 1987

Report Outline
Special Focus


In recent months, the once-obscure Long Island town of Islip, N.Y., gained fame as the town that could not get rid of its garbage. Millions of newspaper readers and television viewers followed the odyssey of the garbage barge Mobro as its crew searched vainly for a place to dump Islip's garbage. The barge, turned away by six state and three nations along the Atlantic coast and Gulf of Mexico, was forced to return to New York, where the garbage was burned Sept. 1 in a Brooklyn incinerator.

Waste experts pointed to the Mobro as a compelling example of why towns and cities must find new ways of dealing with the nation's growing refuse heap. In many populous places, as in Islip, the mounting garbage has created crisis situations. As Individuals, Americans generate more garbage than any other people on Earth, Person for person, they produce twice as much garbage as the Japanese even though the Japanese buy the same range of consumer products. Increased populations, incomes and packaging all contribute to the formation of this throwaway society.

Islip's crisis arrived even though civic officials had taken most of the steps that typify the new frontier in garbage disposal Ironically, the town was praised a year before the barge incident for achieving one of the highest rates of recycling for any town in the country. An Islip town law forbids resident from mixing articles that can the recycled with the usual trash they put out for the garbage collectors. Islip's mandatory recycling program pulls in 300 tons of metal cans, glass bottles, cardboard and newspaper per from its 75,000 households each week. Every Wednesday, the town's garbage trucks collect those recyclable goods from residents' garbage cans and take them to a municipally owned and operated processing facility. The materials are separated there and sent to factories that use recycled goods.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Trash and Recycling
Mar. 27, 1998  The Economics of Recycling
Mar. 20, 1992  Garbage Crisis
Nov. 17, 1989  America Turns to Recycling
Sep. 11, 1987  Garbage Crisis
Aug. 23, 1974  Solid Waste Technology
Mar. 12, 1969  Waste Disposal: Coming Crisis
Hazardous Substances and Nuclear Waste
Recycling and Solid Waste
Renewable Energy Resources and Alternative Fuels