TRD Insights: Tracking the Covid migration through trash collection

Activity picked up in May; Manhattan sees steepest declines from a year ago


As the first wave of the coronavirus receded in May, citywide trash and recycling collection rebounded from its dip in April and matched its level from a year ago, suggesting that residents who decamped from the city to ride out the pandemic are slowly coming back.

Sanitation workers picked up 283,249 tons of refuse, recycling and organic waste in May, up 13 percent from April and unchanged from its level in May 2019. All told, trash collections increased from the previous month in 58 of 59 community districts and increased from last year in 36 of them.

Wealthier areas in Manhattan and Brooklyn tended to see lower trash collection than in May last year. Trash experts interviewed by nonprofit news outlet The City concluded that residents in these wealthier districts had fled to summer homes while residents in poorer districts stayed home.

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Nine of the 10 neighborhoods that saw the biggest annual declines in May trash collection were in Manhattan.

May trash collection declined from last year most severely in Manhattan Community District 2, which includes Greenwich Village, Hudson Square, Little Italy, NoHo, SoHo, South Village and the West Village. Tonnage collected in May increased 8 percent from April but was still 30 percent below its level in May 2019.

Not one of the 10 districts that saw the largest annual gains in trash collection was in Manhattan. Seven were in the Bronx and the other three were in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. May trash collection jumped 13 percent from last year in Bronx Community District 1, which includes Melrose, Mott Haven, Port Morris in the South Bronx. That was the biggest gain in any community district examined by The Real Deal.

This data on trash collection mirrors earlier data scraped by AirDNA which showed that Airbnb booking revenue tanked in Manhattan but surged in places such as Riverhead and Westhampton Beach as the coronavirus pandemic battered New York City.