Waste Inequity in NYC: Placement of Garbage Bins

Lab Reports, Maps, Visualization


The Department of Sanitation of New York (DSNY) places wastebaskets all over the city, but some neighborhoods have a higher frequency of wastebasket placement. This topic was born from my observations of living in New York City for 18 years and the very clear economic disparities in NYC that reflect neighborhood conditions. Megacities like New York City produce much waste, and this is due to dense populations, consumerist dynamics, and waste management (Lee-Geiller & Kütting, 2021). Although waste is an inevitable consequence of human activity, there are ways to mitigate litter and poor management of this waste.

Many have suggested that there is a disparity of wastebaskets and a higher frequency of wastebaskets in higher-income areas with commercial zoning, as opposed to neighborhoods with lower median incomes and residential and industrial zoning. Environmental racism exists in many forms and can encompass waste management in a city like New York. Studies suggest that wastebasket accessibility reduces litter which is important because litter and mismanaged waste is a public health issues with numerous implications (Sprague et al., 2022).

In 2018, former mayor Bill de Blasio signed a bill that would limit the volume of waste that can be processed at DSNY waste management facilities, which led the DSNY to remove many wastebaskets from all over the city. Many residents of New York City have claimed that this was waste inequity and that less prosperous neighborhoods would be the ones to suffer the consequences (Neuman, 2018).

This research represents an exploration of DSNY wastebasket placement in neighborhoods all over New York City to highlight a major issue that has negative public health implications and reduces the quality of life for the residents of neighborhoods experiencing waste inequity.

Research Question

Is there waste inequity in New York City, and where is the highest concentration of wastebaskets?


I acquired the DSNY Litter Basket dataset from NYC Open Data. The dataset was available as a shapefile and geotagged the location of each DSNY wastebasket. Additionally, I acquired a shape file of the Borough borders from the United States Census and a shape file of NYC roads.


I used QGIS to visualize the spatial locations of all DSNY wastebaskets. I first added the shapefile of the NYC Borough and waterway borders, then the shapefile of all NYC roads and pathways, and finally, the shapefile of all DSNY litter baskets. I made the background blue, the roads white, and the garbage cans green to represent environmental colors.

Results and Interpretation

We can see in the visualization that the highest concentration of DSNY wastebasket placement is in Manhattan along streets and avenues, with the lowest concentration being in Queens and in South Brooklyn. We can also see that wastebasket placement is concentrated in areas such as Downtown Brooklyn, Dumbo, Brooklyn Heights, Park Slope, Williamsburg, and Bushwick.

Zooming into Queens, we can see a very sparse amount of wastebaskets, only really placed along main roads such as Queens Blvd, Northern Blvd, and Main Street in Flushing. Looking at South Eastern Queens, we can see nearly zero wastebaskets available to residents. Even in neighborhoods such as Fresh Meadows, there are only a few wastebasket places along Union Turnpike.

It is no secret that there is inequality in New York City, especially regarding public health and economic equity. The DSNY needs to completely restructure its waste management methods in Queens and in the Bronx because poor waste management has severe public health consequences.


I think that this was the most difficult lab for me because I had a lot of difficulty learning GQIS. I watched hours of Youtube video tutorials and still had difficulty. I am unfamiliar with other GIS software, but QGIS has a steep learning curve and requires much time to be put into self-education. Otherwise, I thought the waste inequity topic was super interesting and applicable to my daily life as a New Yorker. As per a critique, I should have made my green dots smaller because there is a lot of crowding in Manhattan. From a journalistic point of view, I think that having crowding of data points in Manhattan but little crowding of data points in South Eastern Queens showed the point I was making with my research.


Dsny Litter Basket (MAP): NYC open data. DSNY Litter Basket (Map) | NYC Open Data. (n.d.). Retrieved April 11, 2023, from https://data.cityofnewyork.us/dataset/DSNY-Litter-Basket-Map-/d6m8-cwh9

Lee-Geiller, S., & Kütting, G. (2021). From management to stewardship: A comparative case study of waste governance in New York City and Seoul Metropolitan City. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 164, 105110. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.resconrec.2020.105110

Neuman, W. (2018, August 16). New York’s push to end inequality extends to Garbage. The New York Times. Retrieved April 11, 2023, from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/16/nyregion/nyc-garbage-pickup-neighborhoods.html

Sprague, N. L., Gobaud, A. N., Mehranbod, C. A., Morrison, C. N., Branas, C. C., & Jacobowitz, A. L. (2022). Overflowing disparities: Examining the availability of litter bins in New York City. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(9), 5107. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19095107