Every day, America must find a place to park 5 billion gallons of human waste, and we’re increasingly unable to find the space. We wake up in the morning, brush our teeth, and flush the toilet, thinking that the wastewater disappears into the center of the Earth. If only that were the case.
Between 8 AM and 9 AM each morning, the waste output of Manhattan’s West Side swells from 70 million to 150 million gallons per day. This is known as “the big flush.” The sewage will eventually end up on a NYC Department of Environmental Protection Sewage boat, which will take the sludge to a dewatering plant on Ward’s Island, where the sludge will become “biosolids” that can be reused to create golf courses, cemeteries, and fertilizer for the human food chain.
Biosolids have become a financial asset worth hundreds of billions of dollars, but it’s still possible that we’ll go back to dumping our waste in the ocean. In this new documentary, VICE traces the trail of waste from butt to big-money biosolid and beyond.