As New York City attempts to up its food scrap waste diversion game and align itself with West Coast composting powerhouses like San Francisco and Portland (baby steps folks, baby steps), one architecture firm has proposed a rather intriguing idea on how to accommodate roughly 30 percent of the city’s residential waste stream that’s composed purely of organic waste.

Currently, a majority of the city’s waste — all 14 million tons of it produced annually — is hauled off via truck to out-of state landfills (thanks Ohio, Virginia, and Pennsylvania!) to the tune of $300 million. This is obviously an insane amount of money to dedicate to the unloading of garbage on other states. With PRESENT Architecture’s Green Loop proposal, New York City's organic waste, which, if all goes as planned will be collected via a mandatory residential curbside collection program by 2016, wouldn’t make that greenhouse gas-intensive journey to some far-flung dump. It would stay close to home. Really close to home.

Putting a much-needed dent in New York’s garbage exporting practice while also adding a sizable amount of public green space to all five boroughs, Green Loop would consist of a network of 10 park-topped street-level composting facilities strategically built along the city’s waterfront.

Connected to land by both a pedestrian causeway and a roadway that would easily allow trucks to deliver the locally-generated “goods,” these saucer-shaped composting hub park islands would add roughly 125 acres of dedicated park land to the Big Apple — park land that could potentially include community gardens, educational facilities, and, as envisioned by the futurists at PRESENT, cross-country skiing during the winter.

Elaborates the proposal:

Locating a network of Green Loops along New York City’s 520 miles of waterfront addresses three important planning issues. First, it takes advantage of the City’s existing transportation infrastructure. Trucks deliver waste a short distance to a borough composting hub, with barges and rail transporting finished compost product away. Next, having a composting hub in each borough addresses 'borough equity' in our waste management. 'Borough Equity' ensures that every borough is responsible for processing its own waste instead of sending the entire city’s trash to one or two over-burdened boroughs. Lastly, location. NYC needs more open space, and as part of its Vision 2020: Comprehensive Waterfront Plan, it's steadily improving public access and developing the waterfront with parks, esplanades and bike paths. A network of Green Loops links into our developing shoreline.
Good stuff. However, aside from the potential odor-related issues — picnic and a game of lawn tennis this weekend out on Rotted Veggie Island, anyone? — I do wonder would become of all that compost churned out at these waterfront facilities. It would be a nurient-rich commodity, no doubt, but it seems to me that the black gold produced at these large-scale facilities could far outweigh the demand for it. I'm picturing a lot of compost. But in the end, I suppose a localized compost surplus is less disagreeable than spending a couple hundred million dollars per year on carting pizza crusts and wilted lettuce to Pennsylvania.

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Composting park proposal keeps NYC's organic waste close to home
In lieu of being hauled out of state, will organic waste be turned into compost at a network of park-topped artificial islands dotting NYC's waterfront?