Do you have a trash disposal inferiority complex? Don't worry, I didn't think that was a thing, either—until I saw video of this sweet setup that Roosevelt Island's got going on, which sucks trash out of homes at 60 miles per hour and whisks it to a centralized collection facility, eliminating any need for garbage trucks or dog urine-soaked piles of trash bags awaiting pickup. "Cat litter, glass, cans, pipe, whatever"—it all gets ferried through the same vacuum tubes, as chief engineer Jerry Sorgente explains here:
Roosevelt Island is just one of two U.S. locations that uses the automated vacuum assisted collection system (AVAC), Disney World being the other one. But the technology—futuristic or outdated, depending on how you look at it and given that it was invented in the 1960s—is quite popular in cities such as Barcelona, Copenhagen, and Hong Kong.
As Atlas Obscura explains, Roosevelt Island got the AVAC when it was leased by the city in 1969 and planners were looking to create a utopian residential community free of cars. The island was designed with narrow streets that weren't conducive to vehicles, be they cars or garbage trucks. The idea of a car-free paradise a stone's toss away from Manhattan didn't exactly pan out, but garbage trucks are still a rare sight, thanks to the network of tubes that connect the island's 16 residential buildings.
The vacuum is created by six centrifugal turbines with 300-horsepower motors. As explained in a lengthy Wired feature on the AVAC, once it arrives at the central collection facility, it's compacted and taken to a landfill or incinerator (so it's not that utopian; the island is still contributing to our ever-growing landfill problems). And of course a few bad actors have at times gone and ruined it for everyone else by shoving Christmas trees, cinder blocks, and vacuum cleaners into the chute, as detailed in this documentary on the AVAC.
At one point, planners thought the AVAC would spread across the states and become the trash disposal system of choice, but for whatever reason, it didn't even take in New York beyond Roosevelt Island—maybe because it's much easier to include something like this in a built-from-scratch community of under 20,000 people in 16 buildings than it is to retrofit a city of millions with a complex system of tubes. Still, it can't hurt to dream of a day when waking up on trash day looks a little less like this:
[h/t Atlas Obscura]