In 1987, a tugboat named Mobro 4000 set out from New York Harbor with more than 6 million pounds of decaying waste collected from across New York City. The trash-bearing vessel was bound for a landfill in North Carolina, where it was refused. It then wandered as far as Mexico and Belize, looking for a place to unload.
ELKRIDGE, MD – JUNE 18: Workers are seen sorting as the conveyor belt moves recyclables to be sorted at the Waste Management Elkridge Material Recycling Facility on June 18, 2015 in Elkridge, Md. D.C. and other local jurisdictions send their recyclable materials to the Waste Management facility in Elkridge for recycling. The cardboard and paper products are baled and shipped to China for new product production. The facility is a one thousand ton facility, where it takes in a thousand tons and sends out a thousand tons daily. (Photo by Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Newspapers followed the tugboat’s 5,000-mile voyage, sounding alarm bells over a national garbage crisis. Johnny Carson led The Tonight Show by suggesting the Mobro make a beeline for Iran, and a New York Times editorial called it a “floating Paul Revere,” warning Americans of the threat of their trash.
After months of rejection, the barge eventually returned with its trash to New York, where it was festooned with an enormous banner, drawn up by Greenpeace activists, that read, “Next Time Try Recycling.” Suddenly, America had to pay attention to its garbage problem. Read more →