Waste to Resource City

Imagine our colossal municipal landfills as sensible resource sheds to build our future urban and peri-urban spaces.  If so, what kind of effort is required to reuse their copious contents?  Now that the bulk of humanity has chosen to settle in urbanized areas, waste management needs a radical revision. 

For hundreds of years we designed cities to generate waste.  It is time we design waste to generate our cities. 

But first a little background.  America is the lead creator of waste on the earth, making approximately 30% of the world's trash and tossing out 0.8 tons per U.S. citizen per year.  Ungracefully, our American value system is somewhat distressed.  It seems value has devolved into feats of rampant affluenza and mega products scaled for super-sized franchise brands, big box retail, XXXL jumbo paraphernalia, etc., encapsulating a joint race for ubiquity and instantaneity in the U.S. mindset.  Where does it all end up?  Gertrude Stein cleverly pointed out; “away has gone away”.  The first step we must take is reduction; meaning a massive discontinuation of objects designed for obsolescence.  Then we need a radical reuse plan.  Our waste crisis is immense, what is our call to action?

One such dilemma lurks in New York.  At the moment, New York City is disposing of 38,000 tons of waste per day.  Previously most of this discarded material ended up in Fresh Kills on Staten Island before operations were blocked.  Manhattanites toss out enough paper products to fill a volume the size of the Empire State Building every two weeks.  Our Rapid Re(f)use project strives to capture, reduce, and redesign New York’s refuse.  The initiative supposes an extended city reconstituted from its own waste materials.  Our concept remakes the city by utilizing all the trash entombed in the Fresh Kills landfill.  Theoretically our method should produce, at minimum, seven entirely new Manhattan Islands at full scale.


How dose this work?  Outsized automated 3D printers are modified to rapidly process trash and complete this task within decades.  These automatons are wholly based on existing techniques commonly found in industrial waste compaction devices.  To accomplish this job, we deem nothing drastically new needs to be invented; most technologies are intended to be off-the-shelf.  Instead of machines that crush objects into cubes, devices can use adjustable jaws that will craft simple shapes into smart puzzle blocks for assembly.  The blocks of refuse are predetermined using computational geometries to puzzle fit domes, archways, lattices, windows, whatever patterns are needed.

Different materials serve specified purposes; transparent plastic for fenestration, organic compounds for temporary scaffolds that decompose, metals for primary structures, etc.  Eventually, the future city makes no distinction between waste and supply.

Credits:  Mitchell Joachim, Melanie Fessel, Emily Johnson, Maria Aiolova, Webb Allen, Niloufar Karimzadegan, Lauren Sarafan, Philip Weller.

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