My background was in sustainable architecture but mainly looking at energy, water and resources. My career change into waste came in 2015 when I moderated a panel that was looking at organic waste and New York City’s new organic waste collection., and I asked myself what should I do?

  • I had just finished designing a residential building with 80 units which had 3 chutes for recycling, trash, and organics, and I asked “how can this building collect organic waste in an efficient way and what should I provide in my new building?”
  • In the past no one had ever designed a building with a separate organic chute and there were no answers.
  • This began a 3-year long process of developing the Zero Waste Design Guidelines.
  • The Guidelines were developed through an iterative process of interviewing building superintends and discussing the findings in four different workshops with a very diverse group of participants (architects, superintendents, people from different New York City agencies).

Architects do not really think of waste management in terms of building design materials

  • As an architect, we can do a lot more to fix the problem because waste is a flaw that stems from the design of buildings.
  • We can help foster the reduction of material usage for buildings by improving our rational for building design the problem is that some politicians are buying compost plants, bins or compactors, not because they really need it but because they receive a percentage of commission on these articles.

The Zero Waste Calculator originated out of the workshops when architects wanted a tool to determine how much waste would be generated when planning a new building.

  • The building codes require minimum storage space but we heard from building superintendents and managers that there is a lack of space for waste collection.
  • The Zero Waste Calculator provides options for volume reduction in waste materials.
  • Recently we got a grant to add greenhouse gas emission calculations to the Calculator
  • A more feasible solution would be to make something out of the plastic that could be used locally instead.

Zero Waste Guidelines is applicable to any type of housing despite income levels

  • Our goal is to help New York City with its waste problem, and once the Guidelines prove to make a difference, then we can use the same process in other cities.
  • We are aware that low income housing may have more issues.
  • We came across lower income buildings where the superintendents have closed down the garbage chute on every floor, due to pests, or being unable to keep up with the maintenance.
  • Overall, I don’t think that income levels really change the strategies much in terms of waste management in residential buildings.

The point of view that design and education makes a change (regarding waste), suggests that we shouldn’t try so hard.

  • If we ensure that the system is designed better, it should not be so difficult to separate your waste.
  • In the moment it may be difficult for us to do the right thing and there is much moral thought about what it is, we should be doing regarding our waste and garbage decisions.
  • Ranjith Annepu

    Co-Founder of be Waste Wise and an International Waste Management

    Ranjith Kharvel Annepu is a Co-Founder of be Waste Wise and an International Waste Management Consul...
  • Clare Miflin

    Founder, ThinkWoven

    Clare is a circular systems thinker with over 20 years of experience as an architect in NYC. In 2017...
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