Something is moving, flying really, underneath Roosevelt Island. 

Home to nearly 10,000 residents, Roosevelt is also home to one of the countries few AVAC or automated vacuum collection systems. Able to handle the daily trash of 20,000 people, the system is the largest in the country and the only AVAC system serving a residential complex in the US.


Moving over 5 tons of trash a day at sixty miles per hour, the AVAC system was meant to be part of a Utopian vision for Roosevelt Island. It meant no trash on the street, and no garbage trucks rumbling by. A clean futuristic approach to garbage collection. Installed in 1975 it was the second AVAC installation in the US. The first AVAC can be found at that other Utopian dreamland, Disney World, where according to their literature even their solid waste disposal is “magical.”

Below is a video by the fantastic Gregory Whitmore of the AVAC in action. 


AVAC System :: Roosevelt Island, NYC from gregory whitmore on Vimeo.

Once the trash has been sucked across the island it is crushed to 1/5 its original size and sealed in 50 cubic yard containers and brought by barge to Greenpoint, Brooklyn. (Home to the Atlas Obscura offices and another industrial wonder of NY the Greenpoint Sewage Treatment Plant.)

More on the AVAC system in this New Yorker article and at the extremely awesome (Below are some more ads for the AVAC system which I posted just because I really love their design.)

“Walt Disney World “Avacuates” it’s refuse!”