Wired.com has a fascinating photo feature on the sanitation system that serves Roosevelt Island's 16 residential towers, which all rely on pneumatic tubes for their trash disposal. The system was installed 35 years ago and has a 40-year life expectancy, so Swedish contractors are constantly on the island unclogging jams and making repairs. "Trash zips through the pipes at an average of 30 mph, but it can reach speeds of 60 mph," writes Betsy Mason. But when the system grinds to a halt, it's time to send the Swedes crawling in. "The first time is scary," said a young Swedish pipe technician as he waited... for another Swede to come back from 50 feet down the pipe. "You get used to it."
Items recovered from the pipes include Christmas trees, exercise equipment, computers, shelving and vacuum cleaners. "This is New York City. You tell people don’t, and they do," says sanitation engineer Jerry Sorgente, who has been working there for 30 years. Sure, cleaning out the pipes is a shit job for the Swedes, but the Roosevelt Island assignment is highly coveted by NYC Sanitation workers. "I didn’t want to come out here when they first told me I was going to Roosevelt Island," Sorgente tells Wired. "But then I saw how clean it was compared to the incinerators. They'll never get me out of here now." Better not get too close to those tubes, Sorgente.