Freshkills Park Blog

Waste transfer station welcomes artists in residence

Through an Artist in Residence (AIR) Program at Recology San Francisco, artists are invited to spend four months working in studio space locate at the company’s 44-acre Solid Waste Transfer and Recycling Center, where most of San Francisco’s garbage and recyclables are waylaid and sorted before being sent to a landfill or recycling plant.  Artists are asked to make use of materials recovered from the waste and recycling stream and to talk to school and tour groups about the reclamation of garbage through art.  Pieces produced through the program are exhibited throughout the city as well as in the 3-acre sculpture garden adjacent to the transfer station, which also functions as a buffer between the transfer station and the abutting Little Hollywood neighborhood.  Many of the plants in the garden were also rescued from the trash.

The AIR PRogram began in 1990 to promote reflection on art, waste production and the environment; over 80 artists have participated.  2010-2011 Artists in Residence are: Ben Burke and Joshua Short (both currently in residence), Val Britton, Zachary Royer Scholz, Suzanne Husky, Ferris Plock, Bill Russell and Niki UlehlaApplications are accepted annually in August.

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April 14, 2010 Posted by | FKP | , , , | 1 Comment

DC Plastic bag tax cuts monthly usage by 19 million

Washington, D.C.’s Department of the Environment instituted one of the nation’s first bag taxes in January, charging 5 cents for each paper or plastic bag issued in bakeries, delis, grocery stores, drug stores, department stores and convenience stores.  The result has been a dramatic drop in the number of plastic bags distributed:  from a 2009 monthly average of 22.5 million bags to just 3 million in January.  The regulation has dramatically reduced the contribution of plastic bags to landfills, and the revenue generated from the tax ($150,000 in January alone) will be used to clean up the Anacostia River.

Mayor Bloomberg developed a similar proposal for New York City’s plastic bags, but it has languished under City Council opposition.

(via Treehugger)

April 2, 2010 Posted by | FKP | , | Leave a comment

Scary math about food waste

UK website Next Generation Food has produced a clear information graphic about food waste that puts forth some staggering statistics:

  • A report in Plos One at the end of 2009 found that per capita food waste in the US is 50 percent greater than in 1974, now equivalent to 1400 calories per person per day.  That totals 120 trillion calories anually.
  • The EPA estimates that about 31 million tons of wasted food is thrown into landfills daily in the US.  That is 40% of the country’s food supply.
  • Each ton of food waste produces 4.2 tons of CO2 in addition to producing a large volume of methane, which is 25 times as harmful a greenhouse gas as CO2.

There are some unaddressed issues to consider in the graphic: contributing volumes of rotting produce and indigestible things like peels and roots, the idea of ‘feeding 200 billion people annually’ with our volume of food waste (to and from what level of nutrition?).  But at the very least, it puts forth a powerful reminder to compost food scraps whenever possible–it might not be a wholesale remedy, but it seems like a start.

(via Treehugger)

March 16, 2010 Posted by | FKP | , | 2 Comments

Pondering plastics, pollution and purpose

Information and reflection on plastic marine pollution continues to increase: as if the Great Pacific Garbage Patch weren’t cause for enough distress,the Sea Education Association (SEA) recently completed a two-decade study on the Atlantic Ocean and  reports that a large volume of discarded plastic also floats in the North Atlantic Gyre, trapped together by ocean currents and causing harm to fish and bird species inhabiting the area.

If you’re interested in learning more, Dr. Marcus Eriksen, director of research and education at California’s Algalita Marine Research Foundation, will be speaking at the American Museum of Natural History this Sunday, March 14th, about his research and about the impact of plastic marine pollution in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.

Sunday, March 14, 12pm
Milstein Hall of Ocean Life, first floor
The American Museum of Natural History

Admission is free with museum admission


And for a more fable-like, existential take on the journey of plastic to this watery grave, filmmaker Ramin Bahrani’s short film Plastic Bag is now viewable online.  The film follows the lifetime of one plastic bag, from initial use to disposal and, eventually, out to sea.  At 18 minutes long, it’s not just a public service announcement but also an art film.  Fittingly, then, it features music by Sigur Ros‘s Kjartan Sveinsson and narration by German filmmaker Werner Herzog.

March 9, 2010 Posted by | FKP | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Utopias, art and Freshkills Park at Snug Harbor

Currently on view at the Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art at Snug Harbor in Staten Island is Hope-A-Holic, a group exhibition of 21 artists exploring Utopian ideas in contemporary work. The show features installation, drawing, painting, video, performance and interactive works.

The Freshkills Park team will take part in a program in conjunction with Hope-A-Holic called Trash to Treasure, this Tuesday, February 23rd at 6pm. Trash to Treasure will feature a presentation about the Freshkills Park project, including a history of the site, details about the park’s master plan and our current projects and programs. This presentation will be followed by a workshop given by the Staten Island Compost Project outlining the simple steps involved in composting at home.

Trash to Treasure
Tuesday, February 23rd, 6pm
FREE | to RSVP, please email compost@snug-harbor.org or call (718) 425-3557.

Hope-A-Holic will run until April 4th. Admission is $3 for adults, $2 for seniors and students and free for kids 12 and under.

February 22, 2010 Posted by | FKP | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inheritors of the title

Apex Regional Landfill in Las Vegas, operated by Republic Services.

Since part of our pitch about the enormity of the Freshkills Park site is that Fresh Kills was the world’s largest landfill during its operating peak, we’re often asked what holds that distinction today.  Business Week runs down a worldwide list of landfills and garbage dumps (the latter connoting a lack of environmental controls and/or regulations); Waste & Recycling News has published a list of the US top ten landfills by annual tonnage (an equally interesting resource is their listing by state).  The biggest of this whole lot is, of course, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the unregulated mass of waste floating in the North Pacific Gyre at 1-2 times the size of Texas.  The question of which site qualifies as the largest land-based landfill worldwide is still open for some debate.  The largest in the US is now either Puente Hills in Los Angeles County or Apex Regional Landfill in Las Vegas.

Important to note from the Business Week list that many of the largest landfills around the world now capture and use landfill gas for energy, reducing the environmental and public health impact of escaping methane and carbon dioxide.  The landfill gas collection system at Fresh Kills, a forerunner of this practice, collects about 10 million cubic feet of landfill gas daily.

February 17, 2010 Posted by | FKP | , | Leave a comment

Fresh Kills, the sanitary landfill

An informative early-1980s video primer on the development of the contemporary sanitary landfill, with Fresh Kills as the prime example.  Some interesting footage of the landfill in operation.

Important note regarding the narrator’s concerns about the quality of drinking water in the vicinity of landfills: Staten Island’s water supply, like that of the rest of New York City, comes from upstate New York and not from the immediate environment.  There is also a naturally occurring clay liner at the bottom of the landfill mounds at Fresh Kills, which keeps leachate from seeping into the water table (in sanitary landfills without clay liners, synthetic liners are now installed).  A vast infrastructure is in place within the mounds at the site to collect and process both leachate and landfill gas–you can read more about it under the ‘About the Site’ tab on the Freshkills Park home page.

February 8, 2010 Posted by | FKP | , , , , , | Leave a comment

City as garbage as City

An inverse representation of the Statue of Liberty, from Terreform's proposal.

A design proposal that seemed almost inevitable: New York-based architects Terreform propose the employment of automated robots in reusing garbage sited within the Fresh Kills Landfill to construct buildings and islands.  The robots, refashioned from existing industrial equipment, would compact garbage into stackable units and be assembled like building blocks.

Wall-E, anyone?  The firm’s proposal, Rapid Re(f)use, bears uncanny similarity to the animated robot’s activities, of course; their cleverness is really rendering the film’s scenario in real world architectural terms to reflect meaningfully on the relationship between the city and its waste.  Terreform posits that the entire volume of the Fresh Kills Landfill, in addition to waste newly generated and collected, could be used to construct seven landmasses equivalent in size to Manhattan island.  A provocative idea, for sure, and fodder for further academic discourse.

To be clear, though, we’re sticking to the park project.

(via Inhabitat)

February 1, 2010 Posted by | FKP | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Garbage Dreams

A new documentary called Garbage Dreams will be screening at Manhattan’s IFC Center for one week starting today, January 6th.  The film follows three teenage boys who grow up in a “garbage village” on the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt, where residents are referred to as Zaballeen, Arabic for “garbage people.”  For years, the city of Cairo has relied on Zaballeen to collect municipal garbage.

These entrepreneurial garbage workers recycle 80% of the garbage they collect, creating what is arguably the world’s most efficient waste disposal system.

The director, Mai Iskander, will be present (and, we imagine, will answer questions) tonight through Sunday at the 6:30pm shows.

January 6, 2010 Posted by | FKP | , , , , | Leave a comment

Garbage Problems

The model for a playful student design envisioning the future of Fresh Kills Landfill as a "Garbage City" complete with a waste-to-energy plant, farms, a super highway and "pinky man hotels" (above) where residents may live for free.

In 2002, a year after the Department of Sanitation and and the Municipal Arts Society announced the design competition for the reuse of the Fresh Kills landfill, the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP) embarked on an investigative project called Garbage Problems aimed at understanding the processes behind waste management in New York City.  Working in collaboration with students from City-As-School high school, CUP produced a variety of compelling educational materials: a playful model and design plan for the reuse of the landfill called “Garbage City“; a 30 minute video on the project; and “The Making of Garbage Problems,” a large-format collage brochure explaining the project and providing a variety of resources on waste management in the wake of the closure of Fresh Kills.

January 3, 2010 Posted by | FKP | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments