Prospect Park is building a composting toilet and putting to use an obsolete building. The Pump House, an unused building tucked away in the center of the park, is not connected to the New York City sewer system so traditional restrooms are not possible but with park use on the rise more restroom facilities are needed, especially in this more remote area of the park.
The toilets will not look or smell unusual, the noticeable difference is that special foam is used to flush. Christian Zimmerman, lead landscape architect at the Prospect Park Alliance, expects that the composted waste will be removed every five years and taken to a landfill, although he hopes that the laws prohibiting the use of this manure within the city will change in the near future. By utilizing composting technology the park is able to provide an amenity where it was needed most while also helping the city reduce the volume of sewage sent to the treatment plants.
The number of composting toilets is on the rise in New York City; The Bronx Zoo, the Queens Botanical Garden, and the Hollenback Community Garden in Brooklyn are already using composting technology.
A composting toilet facility is in the plans at Freshkills Park which is one part of an array of sustainable practices used in the parks’ development.
Ripley’s Believe it or Not Odditorium in Times Square is hosting a contest titled “Materials Matter Amazing Art Challenge” for New York City art students. The submissions for the contest are due in April and selected students will have their work exhibited at Ripley’s. A recent New York Times article highlighted one teacher’s creative interpretation of the prompt to develop works of art from unconventional materials. Jennifer Merdjan, an art teacher at Bard High School Early College in Queens, is having her students make their submissions with recyclable materials.
By using this uniquely environmental spin, Ms. Merdjan’s students are presented with the opportunity to rethink waste products and develop novel approaches to reuse. Some of her students’ projects include a chandelier made from hamster tubes, a handbag sewn together with bicycle tire tubes, and even a dress made with 1,134 plastic straws!
Freshkills Park, built on the former Fresh Kills Landfill, can be thought of in the same vein. As a repurposed landscape and a work of art, Freshkills Park is a prime example of what can come from creative planning and restoration.
An upcoming documentary entitled Landfill Harmonic chronicles the work of Favio Chavez, who is using trash to inspire his local community in Cateura, Paraguay. The documentary follows Chavez, landfill technician and director of the appropriately named Recycled Orchestra, as he constructs musical instruments made of trash sourced directly from the landfill. He provides these instruments to local youth both to inspire them and to try to keep them out of gangs – an unfortunate and all-too-common fate for many in Cateura. He also hopes to use the Recycled Orchestra as a platform from which to teach the importance of recycling, conservation, and the hazards of wastefulness.
At first, building the instruments was a difficult task for Chavez, a landfill technician with only basic carpentry skills. But over the course of four years, Chavez has perfected his craft, discovering which materials works best for each instrument. The film depicts how an oil drum and meat tenderizers can sound as deep and rich as a cello, and that music can be a force to change the lives of a marginalized community.
Like Freshkills Park, Favio Chavez and his Recycled Orchestra are finding opportunities in what is, to many, simply a blighted landscape.
For more than 20 years, Department of Sanitation New York City worker Nelson Molina has curated a collection…of trash. Call it a gallery, a collection, or a museum, Molina and other Sanitation workers have transformed an unused room in an Upper East Side sanitation facility, located on 99th Street between First and Second Avenues, into a showplace for found art in collected trash.
Though the sanitation workers are not permitted to keep anything from trash collection for personal use, this special scenario has been ok’d by the powers that be. The collection has become so well known that Sanitation workers from outside the neighborhood bring Molina items they deem ‘art’ or, at least, interesting, and Molina then decides if and how to display the pieces.
This is truly a great example of ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.’
The Department of Sanitation is a partner, along with the Department of Parks & Recreation, in the creation of 2,200-acre Freshkills Park, which is being built over the course of 30 years on NYC’s former landfill.
(via The New York Times)
A San Francisco company is spurring local urban agriculture by turning organic waste into mulch, and giving it away for free. Bayview Greenwaste collects plant waste for a fee, grinds it into mulch, then gives it away to any organization that wants it, including nonprofits, municipalities, private citizens, schools, and power plants.
The high-quality mulch allows grassroots organizations to move community garden projects forward. Hayes Valley Farm is an urban agriculture site that has benefited from Bayview Greenwaste. Built on the site of a former freeway ramp that was torn down, Hayes Valley Farm utilized mulch from Bayview Greenwaste at no cost and used a process called ‘sheet-mulching‘ on the soil, which was “polluted, choked with weeds, and lacking in nutrients.” Hayes Valley Farm is just one of many public, private and community-based entities that has benefitted from this model.
West Coast cities such as San Francisco, Portland and Seattle have recently become leaders in the effort to reduce the size of landfills by enacting a myriad of cutting-edge recycling programs. The New York Times reports that in Portland, a new biweekly garbage pickup schedule will cut back on the waste sent to landfills by 44 percent. In San Francisco composting has become part of the daily routine for many single-family homes and has contributed to the 78 percent of waste that is recycled and reused by local residents (while the national average stands at a measly 34 percent). The city is also exploring innovative ways of recycling notoriously difficult materials, such as foam and complex plastics. While in Seattle, the bright colors and intelligent new design of the South Waste Transfer Station will give this kind of building a more positive reputation within the community and serve as a more efficient interior workspace. Although the small population size of these cities makes these kinds of recycling programs relatively easier to enact, they serve as important and inspiring examples of what cities across America can do to cut back and reuse waste rather than increasing the mass of landfills.
Goats are spending the summer on Governors Island in New York Harbor and Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island as a sustainable resource for park maintenance – eating weeds, trimming trees and grass. Not only do goats graze on invasive plant species, including poison ivy, they can ‘recycle’ some food scraps from visitors as part of a composting program, which is happening on Governors Island for this first time this summer. Fort Wadsworth has hosted a summer herd of goats since 2007. Not only are these ‘living lawnmowers’ cost-effective and more sustainable than fossil-fuel burning mowers, they can reach steep inclines difficult for park maintenance workers and mowers.
Freshkills Park will host a goat herd in summer 2012. There is precedent for goat grazing on former landfill sites, previously cited in our blog post on the Norman J. Levy Park and Preserve in the town of Hempstead on Long Island. Stay tuned for more details on the Freshkills Park goats!
GrowNYC, in partnership with the NYC Department of Sanitation and NYC Department of Education, is currently accepting applications New York City public schools for their 2012-2013 Recycling Champions Program. The program “aims to empower schools to comply with, and exceed, NYC’s recycling laws, and in the process students create school wide projects and campaigns, and learn environmental leadership skills.” Additionally, the Recycling Champions Program program seeks to advance NYC Department of Education Sustainability Initiative’s goal is to double the recycling rate at NYC public schools to 20% by 2013.
Apply by June 15th, 2012!
As work on Manhattan’s Second Avenue subway line progresses, those viewing the massively scaled operation may wonder, “where does all the excavated dirt and rock go?” In the past, the ‘muck’ from expanding subway lines and other construction projects has contributed to the building of Ellis Island, Governors Island and Battery Park City, among other city landmarks – including the expansion of the Manhattan shoreline. Crushed rock from the 7 train extension was used in the construction of Owl Hollow Fields at Freshkills Park on Staten Island and material from the Second Avenue line is being used in the construction of the Ferry Point Golf Course in the Bronx. Material from the Long Island Railroad expansion under the East River was used in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Additional waste is processed and sold for construction and landscaping by private companies.
(via City Atlas)
Methane gas produced from decomposing waste at Fresh Kills landfill is generating revenue for the City of New York of up to $12 million each year as the site is developed into a 2,200-acre park.
With the help of advanced landfill gas collection infrastructure throughout the landfill, the New York City Department of Sanitation is actively harvesting methane, through rigorous state and federal public health and safety guidelines, from the decomposing waste buried at Fresh Kills landfill. This methane, enough to heat approximately 22,000 homes, is sold to National Grid and the city generates approximately $12 million in annual revenue from the sale of that gas. Gas recovery and sale will continue until the amount of gas produced by the landfill is minimal enough as to no longer be economically viable, at which point it will be burned off at flare stations onsite.
With the objective of minimizing energy consumption within new buildings and infrastructure systems at Freshkills Park, the Department of Parks & Recreation is also exploring the use of emerging energy technologies to supply as much of the park’s energy as possible.