While not the sexiest of issues, waste is becoming an increasingly pressing problem for our cities. Or an exciting opportunity, if approached intelligently.
Let’s take a short detour: In July 2014, Azuma Makoto – a Japanese artist, florist, and environmental activist – used a helium balloon to send a 50-year-old bonsai pine into space. Beyond the project’s artistic ambitions and connotations, Makoto’s Exobiotanica was supposed to highlight the significance of plants for humans and their planet: Taking nature out of context helped to underscore its significance.
Changing perspectives to broaden our understanding of the flora around us seems like a good cue for urban evolution. After all, when we look at today’s mega cities, the desire for more nature is omnipresent. At the same time, space is limited and often required to cope with the steady stream of new arrivals. And growing resident numbers, in turn, also generate more waste.
Taken at face value, these are not the best possible conditions for more green spaces in our cities. But why not simply combine the two?
Waste islands for rest and recreation
Over the past few years, Manhattan has become increasingly green. The heart of New York is getting more and more pedestrianized and attractive thanks to projects like the High Line, a repurposed subway bridge. And then there is always Central Park. Plenty of pretty new surfaces. Yet what goes on underneath it all?
New York City currently houses more than eight million citizens and counting, flanked by growing volumes of waste: approx. 14 m tons a year, tendency rising. Initiatives like Present Architecture, the brainchild of Andre Guimond and Evan Erlebacher, seek to tackle this issue with a brand new approach to waste management.
If these two had their way and say, the future would see below-ground garbage collection and treatment of compostables on artificial islands. The composting aspect alone would be a major US achievement – in America, less than 10 percent of potential compostables are treated accordingly.
As part of their ambitious vision, Present Architecture propose islands docked near Manhattan and the city’s other boroughs; islands equipped with so-called green loops that lure locals as outing or leisure destinations while, below their feet, the fermentation process takes care of the waste. Above ground, almost any recreation activities are conceivable – from neighborhood gardens to cross-country skiing.
Still not convinced? Well, just think of the cold hard facts – or cold hard cash – the project might generate: Close proximity to New York City would slash the current waste transportation costs of around $300 m per year. It always makes sense to combine useful advances with financial incentives. A promising model for seaports around the globe.
Header image: AMKK