NYC Trash! Past, Present, & Future

NYC Trash
This exhibition at The City Reliquary from November 2, 2017 to April 29, 2018 presents the stories behind New York City’s solid waste, from “one man’s garbage is another man’s gold” to the inventive ways New Yorkers are reusing and recycling. It traces the trajectory of waste management in New York, from the squalid nineteenth-century tenements documented by Jacob A. Riis, to the Dead Horse Bay landfill and the beginnings of the NYC Department of Sanitation at the turn of the century, and the mid-century landfill of Fresh Kills on Staten Island.

The exhibition culminates in profiles of seven artists and nonprofits that offer innovative ways of considering waste now and in the future:

  • Mierle Laderman Ukeles, whose projects Touch Sanitation PerformanceThe Social Mirror, and Landing highlight overlooked social aspects of trash disposal
  • Larry Racioppo, NYC 2016 Best Unknown Photographer, whose work focuses on the urban landscape
  • Hack:Trash:NYC, aims for zero waste sent to NYC landfills by 2030. Their 2017 hackathon invites creative solutions to waste management.
  • Industrial/Organic, converts organic food waste to high-value resources
  • Lower East Side Ecology Center, collects electronic waste and separates it for reuse and recycling
  • Materials for the Arts, collects and distributes art supplies and materials to nonprofit organizations with arts programming and public schools
  • RISE Products, creates nutritious ingredients from upcycled organic byproducts, which reduces waste and preserves the environment

The exhibition will also explore the role of trash as cultural archive through objects selected from the Treasure in the Trash collection of Nelson Molina. In his thirty years on the job as a DSNY employee, Molina amassed a monumental collection of ephemera picked from the castoffs of everyday New Yorkers. Read more about his museum in this New York Times article.

A display of trash art by a number of local artists will complement the exhibition and will open in the Reliquary sculpture garden on April 7, 2018.

Exhibition images:

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This exhibition is generously sponsored by:

Sims Municipal Recycling
Sun Bear Media
Jacquelyn Ottman (author of The New Rules of Green Marketing and founder of