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The original item was published from 3/24/2022 1:34:52 PM to 4/2/2022 12:00:01 AM.

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News & Town Board Reports (gblist)

Posted on: March 26, 2022

[ARCHIVED] Greenburgh Slice of History

What to do with Trash? The evolution of American Sanitation


 Town Historian

What to do with Trash? The evolution of American Sanitation

By: Riley Wentzler & Felicia Barber




The Greenburgh Sanitation Department…. everybody knows what is meant by “sanitation,” the collection and disposal of garbage. Just as everybody knows this word, we are all equally familiar with the process of sanitation itself. Today when we think of sanitation in Greenburgh, we think of: placing the trash in a plastic trash bag, which is then placed in a plastic garbage can and then, on a certain day, placing the can on the curb so the garbage truck can pick it up. This process has become so reflexive to most Greenburgh residents, that they could probably do it in their sleep. However, this familiar process is a relatively recent one. Greenburgh has existed since 1788, yet the complete process could only have been possible since 1947 at the earliest.


From 1700-1756 trash was just dumped in America’s streets. In 1757 in, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Ben Franklin started the first street cleaning service in America (Trashcans Unlimited, LLC). It is important to note however, that New York City did not have a street cleaning service until 1881, and, that it wasn’t fully effective until 1895 (Oatman-Stanford 2013). For his revolutionary cleaning service in Philadelphia, Ben Franklin would collect the trash, dig a big pit, and burry it underground. He encouraged others to do the same (Trashcans Unlimited, LLC).


The first trash can did not appear in America until 1885, and it wasn’t plastic it was metal. The first plastic garbage can came around in 1920 (Trashcans Unlimited, LLC). The first plastic trash bag with which to line the cans did not appear until 1937(Trashcans Unlimited, LLC). The first garbage truck did not appear in America until 1947 (Big Truck Rental LLC).


What this brief history of American Sanitation shows is that, contrary to what some might assume, the familiar process of: placing the trash in a plastic trash bag, which is then placed in a plastic garbage can and then, on a certain day, placing the can on the curb so the garbage truck can pick it up, has not been a constant in Greenburgh. Each important part of this process: plastic trash bag, plastic garbage can and the garbage truck was very slow to evolve. Without each piece of this process Greenburgh would be a very filthy place. Therefore, we should all be thankful for our garbagemen/sanitation engineers. 




Previous Slices of History include:

















































































About the Authors:


We are both Assistant Town Historians at Greenburgh Town Hall and we are engaged to be married and are currently looking for permanent employment.


Riley Wentzler:

I was born and raised in a small rural town in central Pennsylvania. In high school, I took every honors course available including four years of Spanish. I received A’s in all of them. I graduated third in my class of 146 students. This brought me to Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. Once there, I continued my trend of academic excellence. I graduated summa cum laude in Political Science with a minor in Spanish and a Master’s in Communication Studies, with a G.P.A of 3.94. It was also there that I met my lovely fiancée, Felicia Barber. My Master’s in Communication has promoted public speaking, teamwork, and customer service. My Political Science degree has developed my research skills using computer-based tools and provided me with experience using the Microsoft Office products. My minor in Spanish has facilitated my bilingual capabilities. During my internship at Greenburgh, I created the petition for the State Roads project using website tools. My diverse education and areas of interest have provided me with a wide range of skills. I look forward to finding a career opportunity in business or government. To suggest a topic for next week’s article, you can contact me at assistanthistorian@greenburghny.comor to help me find employment, you can contact me at 


Felicia Barber:

I was born in New York City and raised in Hartsdale, New York. I graduated from Ardsley High School. I recently earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Graphic Design at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. It was here that I met my fiancé, Riley Wentzler. As a result of my academic excellence, I won a scholarship every year. I learned and applied many graphic design skills to projects during my summer internships and at school. I am proficient in using Adobe graphic design applications including Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. For my Identity/branding course at Edinboro, I created logos to appear on the tee-shirts of Physical Education majors. For a veteran’s upcoming event, I used a typeface to focus the reader to the soldier in the poster. For the State Roads Legislative Campaign project, I created the embedded graphic-photo that accompanied the petition I am looking for a job to utilize my skills as a Graphic Designer in an agency, print shop, company or government To suggest a topic for next week’s article, you can contact me at assistanthistorian@greenburghny.comTo learn more about my artwork or to help me find employment you can contact me at



Two Interviews with the authors:





Big Truck Rental LLC. (2019, March 6). The History of the Side Loader Garbage Truck. Retrieved from Big Truck Rental:,side%20rather%20than%20the%20rear


Oatman-Stanford, H. ( 2013, June 24). A Filthy History: When New Yorkers Lived Knee-Deep in Trash. Retrieved from Collectorsweekly:


Trashcans Unlimited, LLC. (2016, September 23). The Remarkable Evolution Of Trash and All Its Dirty Secrets. Retrieved from Trashcans Unlimited- The Best Trash Cans at the Best Prices: Historian

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