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

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.

Music: “Snakeweed” and “Rare Groove Revival.”

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