Episode 925: A Mob Boss, A Garbage Boat and Why We Recycle : Planet Money In 1987, an Alabama man had an idea. So he made a deal with the mob. And ended up with 3,186 tons of trash no landfill would take. This is the accidental birth of recycling in the U.S. ⎸Subscribe to our newsletter here.
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Episode 925: A Mob Boss, A Garbage Boat and Why We Recycle

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Episode 925: A Mob Boss, A Garbage Boat and Why We Recycle

Episode 925: A Mob Boss, A Garbage Boat and Why We Recycle

Episode 925: A Mob Boss, A Garbage Boat and Why We Recycle

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/739893511/740547317" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

The tugboat Break of Dawn and the garbage barge anchored in New York Harbor in 1987. George Argeroplos / Newsday LLC/Newsday via Getty Images hide caption

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George Argeroplos / Newsday LLC/Newsday via Getty Images

The tugboat Break of Dawn and the garbage barge anchored in New York Harbor in 1987.

George Argeroplos / Newsday LLC/Newsday via Getty Images

In the 1980s, the mafia controlled garbage in New York. So when an Alabama businessman named Lowell Harrelson wanted to turn trash into energy, he found a mob boss. Bought 3,186 tons of garbage, put it on a big ship, and set sail to find a landfill to work with.

After a 6,000 mile journey, The Garbage Barge, as it came to be known, resulted in an epic mess.

But it was also the birth of residential recycling in the U.S. as we know it.

This is the first in a two-part series. Part two is here.

Music: "Snakeweed" and "Rare Groove Revival."

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