Recently, The Heap has drawn your attention to stories about an island of garbage, an island recycled from garbage and making vacuums out of islands of garbage. To complete the theme, how about an island that vacuums up garbage? Wired provides this great photo story about the 35-year-old pneumatic trash collection system on New York City's Roosevelt Island.
Embracing a utopian vision, the island's residential towers were designed to eliminate the need for cars (and, it goes without saying, garbage trucks), allowing for narrower, more pedestrian-friendly streets. Instead, garbage chutes in the towers empty into large sealed tubes that can suck trash over great distances at speeds of 30 to 60 miles per hour thanks to huge turbines. Trash is separated by weight in centrifuges before being emptied into shipping containers that are trucked off to landfills or incinerators. The original system, designed by Swedish company Envac, is still fully functional thanks to careful operation and regular maintenance.
The article notes that the only other pneumatic trash collection system in operation in the United States is at (perhaps unsurprisingly) Disney World. But it's much more common in Europe.
Well worth a read!