On March 22, 1987, the tugboat Break of Dawn, towing the barge Mobro 4000, loaded with 3,168 tons of trash, set sail from Islip, New York, bound for Morehead City, North Carolina. The plan was to convert the trash to methane in a pilot recycling program. Things did not go as planned. Based on reports that the garbage may have contained medical waste, the barge was turned away in North Carolina. The barge was later turned away from ports in Louisiana, Mexico and Belize before finally returning to New York, where the garbage was ultimately burned in a Brooklyn.
The wandering garbage barge became a national and international joke but is credited with fostering increased interest in recycling. Likewise, the conversion of garbage to methane at garbage dumps to be used to generate electricity has become increasingly common. This morning, the New York Times featured its first “Retro Report” video: “The Voyage of the Mobro 4000.”