How did a simple barge become a symbol of rampant American consumerism and an omen of environmental disaster? That's the story of Mobro 4000, a garbage barge that logged 6,000 miles on the high seas as a smelly pariah.
According to Retro Report, a news documentary service helmed by The Week columnist Taegan Goddard, the barge was filled with 6 million pounds of garbage from an overstuffed landfill in Islip, N.Y. However, the initiative, funded by entrepreneur Lowell Harrelson, hit an obstacle when the garbage was rejected by officials in North Carolina for allegedly carrying toxic hospital waste.
After the barge was rejected again in Louisiana, news programs started to give it coverage, which prompted rejections from a total of six states and three foreign countries. The Mobro 4000 was soon being called epithets like "the Flying Dutchman of trash" and "the barge to nowhere." On the positive side, stories of landfill shortages across the country got people to think about how much waste they were producing, leading to a boom in recycling, according to Retro Report.
Five months after launching, the barge ended up where it started: Islip.