When the Dutch buy Manhattan, the island is a swampy marsh. But trash, and enormous mounds of giant oyster shells, help build the New Amsterdam Seaport into the most profitable port in the New World. Garbage and recycling becomes big business -- controlled by crooked politicians, and New York's most ruthless gangsters. A Civil War Hero creates the city's Department of Sanitation, and takes New York's trash back from the crooks.
Tens of thousands of New Yorkers die a gruesome death from cholera, spread by waste contaminated drinking water. Urban planner Robert Moses uses trash to build New York City's expressways, bridges, and parks. Organized crime extorts millions from businesses. The activist Freegans eat trash thrown out by the supermarkets. An artist stuffs trash into small plastic boxes and sells them as art. A 50 million dollar project in Brooklyn uses a new kind of trash to build a park on the shores of the East River.