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Organic Waste Network  - OWN aims for a change in perception of waste in New York City. The proposal started as an assignment for Fall Studio in 2010 and evolved into an Independent Research, as part of the Urban Design program at Columbia University.




New York City, USA


Gabriela Callejas, Alexandra Gonzalez – GSAPP, Columbia University

Organic Waste Network

New York City, by 2011 exported approximately 55% of the 27,000 tons of household waste generated per day by the city to landfills located out of state. With the closing of the Fresh Kills in 2001, the city needed to develop innovative solutions to manage its refuse and go beyond the negative connotation that comes with the “Not in my Backyard” concept.  The issue of NYC’s waste stream was incorporated into the PlaNYC 2030 and the city admits that there is a need to rethink the complete waste cycle and to start implementing strategies within each neighborhood in the city.


During the Urban Design Studio (fall 2010, Columbia University) IMB_NY (In My Backyard, NY) began to flourish by addressing the real and complex issues of organic waste. The project responded to community concerns while considering the realities of refuse generation and disposal. From the collection of organic waste to the production and use of fertilizer, the project aimed to create a “tool kit” of strategies and components to set up a system that works for each NYC community. Initially, IMB_NY was tested within two pilot projects: Lower East Side and Bushwick. The proposal considers the potential of the scheme to be calibrated according to site-specific characteristics. Nevertheless, IMB_NY should be considered a municipal project - where efforts from various public departments and civil society associations come along - that could be replicated and implemented within other cities. Moreover, education was considered the project’s main vehicle: IMB_NY begins to raise awareness, by creating an advertising campaign, and provides incentives in order to encourage community participation (see online videos here and here))


Later on, as part of an Independent Research, Red Hook was identified as an ideal site for a physical implementation of the new organic waste system. The new proposal for the Red Hook Food Vendors (RHFV) site was developed by Architecture for Humanity’s competition winning team, together with other existing community initiatives (such as Added Value farm) and the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative. This was the perfect scenario for a new IMB_NY project: OWN_Red Hook (Organic Waste Network), an attempt to implement IMB_NY strategies through connecting existing initiatives and creating incentives for the RHFV organic waste to be composted within the boundaries of the neighborhood.

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