A Zero Waste NYC in 2030

Photo Credit: NYC.gov

New Yorkers see trash everywhere. They also happen to send trash everywhere—other cities, states, and yes, even countries. Designing Waste: Strategies for a Zero Waste City, a new exhibit at the Center of Architecture in Manhattan reveals just how the city could stop exporting the garbage of its 8 million residents by the year 2030. 

As part of the OneNYC initiative, Mayor Bill de Blasio first announced the 2030 mission to make New York a zero waste city three years ago. Although lofty, the exhibit makes the goal seem achievable by highlighting intuitive solutions brainstormed by architects, urban planners and design professionals based in the city. Curated by journalist Andrew Blum, each work reimagines the first major step in the waste export process: garbage collection.  

Photo Credit: Center for Architecture and AIA New York

As it stands, New York City generates over 14 million tons of waste each year. According to a budget report released by the city’s Independent Budget Office, waste exports for 2018 will cost $392 million. Depending on the zip code and type of waste, trash from the city (including recyclable items) are transported to a wide range of domestic and international places like Virginia, Bridgeport, Connecticut, or Taiwan. The problem of waste in the city is so entrenched that you can actually track the journey of your trash here.

The entire exhibition is designed by Wkshps and is based on the Zero Waste Design Guidelines first established as a collaboration between city agencies and AIA New YorkCenter for ArchitectureKiss + Cathcart ArchitectsClosedLoops, and Foodprint Group

New York isn’t the only place in the world exporting massive tons of waste. Cities like Paris and San Francisco have been attempting different strategies to achieve zero waste status. None have been entirely successful. Masdr City, a planned space for roughly 50,000 people in Abu Dhabi is perhaps the closest to establishing a formidable “greenprint.”   

New York is home to many firsts. Achieving zero waste status before any major metropolis in the world would be a nice win and downright miracle. It would perhaps cause other mayors around the world to experience collective FOMO and hopefully, go green. 

Published in 2018. “Designing Waste” ran from June 14-September 1, 2018 at New York’s Center of Architecture.

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