Waste Spaces

Can design help New York City go zero waste?

Architecture East Environment Sustainability
Can design help New York City go zero waste? New strategies for neighborhood collection (Courtesy Center for Architecture)

New York City is not exactly a city that takes pride in its waste treatment. Currently the city’s waste ends up mostly in landfills and incinerators. Organizers of Designing Waste: Strategies for a Zero Waste City at the Center for Architecture want to change the status quo and are calling for a waste system that can be “improved by design.” The exhibition, on view from June 14 through September 1, is based on Zero Waste Guidelines, a 2017 publication that rethinks the future of managing trash.

Piechart showing the percentages of different categories of waste (Sam Lahoz/ Courtesy Center for Architecture)

In 2014, New York City announced a Zero Waste plan to reduce the amount of non-recyclable materials ending up in landfills by 90% by 2030. The organizers respond to the goal by urging architects to consider designs that can “change human behavior,” as they often neglect the use and maintenance of buildings after handing them over to clients.

Designing Waste was curated by journalist and independent curator Andrew Blum and designed by multidisciplinary workshop Wkshps. The exhibition is divided into two parts, the existing ground level and the new basement level.

Diagrams on the ground level document how different building types in the city deal with waste, a categorization extracted from the Zero Waste Guidelines. Life-size garbage bins and bags are exhibited alongside the panels.

Balers and panels on display (Sam Lahoz/ Courtesy Center for Architecture)

In the basement, proposals for new waste management measures were set up for each building type. They include strategies such as introducing shared trash collection, repurposing chute rooms, and extending shared amenities. According to the curator, the exhibitors referenced existing NYC precedents such as Stuyvesant Town and the Gateway in Battery Park City. Operable balers are also on display on the same level.

AIA New York has launched its 2018 Zero Waste Challenge to coincide with the exhibition, and have invited architecture firms in the city to combine their efforts in reducing office waste.

For a full schedule of curator-led exhibition tours and various panel discussions related to the exhibition, check out this link.

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