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MORRISVILLE, Pa. — There has been plenty of trash-talking this past week by fans of the Yankees and Phillies. But for years, New Yorkers have been quietly doing more than talking trash about Philadelphians: They’ve been sending it, about 2,500 tons daily, to mega-landfills in Philadelphia’s northern suburbs.

Harry Hansberry and his mother, Henrietta Hansberry, who owns a pizzeria in Morrisville and is not fond of New York’s Yankees or its trash.
Hundreds of trucks bearing New York City’s commercial and residential waste rumble up the high, seagull-covered peaks of landfills deep in Bucks County six days a week, dumping New Yorkers’ candy wrappers and half-eaten hamburgers and millions of bits of other junk in and around the largely blue-collar, Phillies-loving communities of Morrisville, Tullytown and Falls Township, about 30 miles from the Phillies’ Citizens Bank Park, the site of Game 5 of the World Series on Monday.

You would think this might annoy the people who live here. But in garbage, as in baseball, money rules.

New York City pays Waste Management, the company that runs the landfill complex, and Waste Management in turn pays millions of dollars in fees to its host municipalities, in addition to making other donations and contributions that have turned the landfills into an unusual source of civic pride for many residents.

People in Falls Township have their trash picked up for free by Waste Management. The company donated four-wheel-drive vehicles to the Morrisville Police Department. Nearly 740 people in Tullytown recently received checks in the mail, an annual gift to property owners by Tullytown borough officials from the proceeds of the Waste Management fees.

Tullytown property owners used to get $1,500 each. But business is booming at the landfills: This year, each check was for $5,000, and the borough itself has a surplus of roughly $50 million. In 2007, Waste Management contributed a total of $17.4 million in so-called host fees to Bucks County, Tullytown and Falls Township.

“New York’s trash is our cash,” chuckled Dan Dougherty, a 56-year-old foreman watching Game 2 on Thursday night at Dacey’s Pub on West Philadelphia Avenue in Morrisville.

New York City has been generous with its junk, particularly after the Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island closed in 2001. In fiscal year 2009, the No. 1 destination of the city’s 3.3 million tons of residential waste — not counting the commercial kind — was a landfill in Waverly, Va., where 932,536 tons were sent, according to the city’s Department of Sanitation. One of the three Morrisville area landfills — known as the Tullytown, Grows and Grows North landfills — ranked third, with Grows North pulling in 283,902 tons.

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Garbage is one of New York City’s largest exports. More than 4,000 tons of city trash — about 400 truckloads — are shipped every day to out-of-state landfills. New York spends more than $71 million a year to get rid of its garbage.

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For years we’ve been reading about a patch of garbage the size of Texas floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, ingeniously dubbed the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Basically, any trash that gets dumped in the water rides the currents to this one spot and joins an ever-increasing flotilla of crap. For all the breathless accounts of the mess and its impact on the area’s sealife, however, no one seemed to have a picture of the buildup.

In order to sate our own curiosity, VBS joined the crew of a research vessel studying the trash and sailed out into one of the most remote spots of open water in the world, the North Pacific Gyre, in search of this mythical garbage island. What we discovered once we got there was an ecological disaster beyond any of our expectations and possibly the single worst thing human beings have done to the planet and ourselves. Hope you’re into cancer and sex-reversal!

Watch the twelve part series Garbage Island at VBS.TV. |  Digg |  FURL |  Yahoo! My Web 2.0 |  Reddit