Get the latest market trends in your inbox

Stay on top of the latest market trends and economic insights with the Axios Markets newsletter. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Minneapolis-St. Paul

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa-St. Petersburg news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa-St. Petersburg

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Envac's automated vacuum collection system. Source: Envac

Trash systems that use vacuum suction and pneumatic tubes to whoosh garbage from people's homes and sidewalk bins have been around for decades, but are gaining new traction in the U.S.

Why it matters: These systems — which currently serve Disney World and Manhattan's Roosevelt Island — get municipal garbage trucks off the streets and offer a cleaner and more environmentally friendly waste removal.

Driving the news: The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) is soliciting plans from vendors to build a vacuum-tube-based underground garbage system for Polo Grounds Towers, a 4,000-resident complex in Harlem.

  • A contract is expected to be awarded next summer, and the new system would likely be the first in the U.S. to include recycling.
  • The project "could have a huge impact on plans for private development," Juliette Spertus, an urban designer with NYCHA, tells Axios.
  • The owners of Hudson Yards, a private residential and commercial development on Manhattan's West Side, have signaled interest in building one as well.
  • And a group called Closed Loops LLC wants to build one under Manhattan's High Line in Chelsea.

How it works: Pedestrians or residents place trash in chutes in their homes or where outdoor garbage baskets would normally be. A stream of air sucks the refuse down to subterranean pipes, where it's forced by vacuum pressure to a central collection station.

  • From there, the waste is compacted and sent to permanent disposal sites like landfills.
  • Larger items like sofas, heavy cardboard boxes or computer monitors don't go through pneumatic tubes — they get placed in discrete collection areas, where they're also removed.
  • No municipal garbage trucks are involved, and overflowing trash bins are a thing of the past, companies like Envac and a newer rival, MariMatic, tell me.
  • If someone drops something large, heavy or otherwise naughty into the system, on-site maintenance workers are there to shut down a pneumatic tube, remove the offending object, and get things restarted.

Other advantages: The areas in an apartment complex or public space that would normally be dedicated to trash management can be freed up for other uses — like bike rooms.

  • "In hundreds of years, waste collection hasn’t changed," says Joakim Karlsson, CEO of Envac, the Stockholm-based company that invented pneumatic waste collection systems in the 1950s and installed the Disney World and Roosevelt Island systems in the 1970s.
  • "Our vision is that pneumatic systems should become as natural a part of a city’s natural infrastructure as water, electricity or sewage," he tells Axios.
  • Today, the vast majority of these systems are outside the U.S. — primarily in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

The intrigue: Companies have emerged as competitors to Envac that say they have more modern technology that's better suited to recycling.

  • MariMatic, which is based in Finland, uses plastic pipes that are smaller in diameter than Envac's steel pipes.
  • This equates to lower energy consumption, Albert Mateu of MariMatic tells Axios.
  • Pneumatic tube-based systems are growing "more and more popular around the world," Mateu says, but they're a tougher sell in the United States.
  • Benjamin Miller of ClosedLoops, which wants to build a system for the High Line, says that's largely because the capital expenditure of such a system is mostly upfront — and expensive — versus the cost of replacing a garbage truck every seven years.

The bottom line: "This is an important part of building a smart and sustainable city," says Karlsson. "If you had to build a new world, would you choose garbage trucks? I don’t think so."

Go deeper

48 mins ago - Podcasts

Former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes on the Senate runoffs

The future of U.S. politics, and all that flows from it, is in the hands of Georgia voters when they vote in two Senate runoffs on January 5.

Axios Re:Cap digs into the election dynamics with former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes, a Democrat who served between 1999 and 2003.

59 mins ago - Health

Cuomo orders emergency hospital protocols as COVID capacity dwindles

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D). Photo: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Monday that struggling state hospital systems must transfer patients to sites that are not nearing capacity, as rising coronavirus cases and hospitalizations strain medical resources.

Why it matters: New York does not expect to get the same kind of help from thousands of out-of-state doctors and nurses that it got this spring, Cuomo acknowledged, as most of the country battles skyrocketing COVID hospitalizations and infections.

Arizona certifies Biden's win

Photo: Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Arizona officials certified the state's presidential election results on Monday, paving the way for President-elect Joe Biden to be awarded its 11 electoral votes.

Why it matters: The move deals yet another blow to President Trump's efforts to block or delay certification in key swing states that he lost. Biden beat the president in Arizona by more than 10,000 votes.