Trash Talking HOW CAN WE RECYCLE TRASH, REDUCE LITTER AND CREATE RECREATIONAL FACILITIES?
BY JEFFREY SMITH, AIA, NCARB
Throughout the coastal area of south Louisiana, small mounds, which have been identified as shell middens, were left behind many centuries ago by Native Americans. These middens were their trash piles, or landfills as we know them now. Archaeologists have mined these middens to uncover the history of the lifestyle of our ancient ancestors by analyzing their trash. They have discovered arrowheads, pottery chards, bone tools, and other organic items that have helped us understand how they lived. Imagine, many years from now, archaeologists excavating our landfills to determine how we lived. They would find plastics, glass, metals, and other non-biodegradable waste in huge mounds located throughout the world. I think they would be horrified at their findings and question the intellect of their ancestors. Why on earth would you use the organic natural resources of our planet to produce non-organic products and then throw them into giant trash piles? HOLLY & SMITH ARCHITECTS, APAC
Now I am trash talking – almost every product you purchase is encased in non-organic packaging, which is immediately placed in a trash can, then makes its way to the landfill. This irony is devastating to our beautiful planet. In Design with Nature, renowned Scottish landscape architect & educator Ian McHarg says, “Man views the earth from space and sees a beautiful blue/green celestial orb, but notices black, gray, and brown blemishes and recognizes them as cities, and then asked the question - is man just a planetary disease?” What a sad thought. I believe we are at a societal nexus when it comes to waste disposal. Can we continue to leave our garbage in huge piles and cover it with dirt? I think not. Alas, all is not lost. We do have hope, and I suggest a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) for humankind and our planet’s survival. Recycling on a massive scale done at a small-scale, community by community. Pretty audacious, right? But achievable and already implemented on a small scale throughout the world. Now let’s drill down a little deeper into this concept with the help of architect William Sanchez. William works with a company, T&B Fabrication, LLC., that produces large Rotoclaves® (autoclave on steroids) capable of turning all waste into recycled material and sanitary pulp, which can be used as fuel. Now, are you serious? This technology exists, and we are not utilizing it worldwide; why not? I will leave that question for society to answer but instead trash talk a little more about the process with William’s help. The following green sidebar is William’s description of the process: HOLLY & SMITH ARCHITECTS, APAC
The TBF Rotoclave® (www.Rotoclave.com) technology is a key component to mechanically separating and recovering materials in waste targeted to be recycled into existing markets, and/or to be used in Environmentally Friendly and Safe Energy Generation systems. Our goal is to achieve a Responsible Progressive Public Policy Target of “0” for a Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) Landfill. The Rotoclave® Technology has been thoroughly and successfully proven and improved since its initial fabrication and operation in 1992 (with over 90 operational systems worldwide). Its proprietary technology is based on a static, pressurized vessel fitted with a rotating internal drum. The internal drum contains and tumbles the unsorted waste throughout the duration of the processing cycle, volumetrically reducing waste components during the steam sterilization process. This allows safe mechanical handling and separation of the treated materials coming out of the Rotoclave® vessel at the end of the processing cycle. In the Rotoclave® system, the waste is only in contact with and contained by the internal rotating stainless steel drum and not the pressure vessel. This assures the pressure vessel’s integrity is never compromised and or diminished since it is not exposed to any abrasive wear and tear and/or impact damage from the constant 24/7/365 operation.
With this system, we can see that the technology exists today to recycle all our waste into usable material and sanitary pulp. So, what would be the next step in a prudent society? The waste industry is enormous, with financial and political tentacles reaching far and wide; therefore, turning this ship around will take community pressure and political will to make a change. These hurdles can occur when a community enters the implementation phase of a waste management plan. My initial thought was to create a large facility for southeast Louisiana and collect all waste to be recycled at this one facility. However, William recommends a more sustainable idea, which would be to install facilities in most communities at a smaller scale that would limit trucking and fuel cost. This would lead to economic development opportunities in each community to manufacture products from recycled material and potentially utilize the excess sanitary pulp for fuel. Individuals could begin with cottage-type industries that utilize the recycled material or find buyers from larger facilities that could use the recycled by-products.
Beer Bottle Doors
An example I recently heard about is people in the New Orleans, Mandeville, and Lafayette, Louisiana area collecting glass wastes and grinding them into sand for sandbags and other applications. These entrepreneurs are working in their backyards. As an architect, I can see no more sustainable solution to the waste disposal problem than to build our future structures sustainably with our recycled waste. Finally, say we achieve our BHAG and are happily recycling, and the communities begin to pay for trash. Would the litter problems be solved? More trash talking, but what a beautiful outcome that could be.
Okay, now what do we do with the abandoned landfills? There are many examples, the largest being Freshkills Park in New York, Mount Trashmore in Virginia, and World Cup Park in South Korea, to name just a few. Landfills are manmade hills, and particularly in the flat lands of south Louisiana, these hills present a unique opportunity for the communities to create recreational sites with terrain not often seen by most of the citizens of those communities. For example, does anyone know Monkey Hill? It is now the most popular area for kids in Audubon Zoo. A win for societal recycled trash - reduce litter, harvest methane, and create recreational facilities. As Daniel Burnham, the architect who oversaw the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, said, “make no little plans.” So, let us move this BHAG forward.
Sneaker made from recycled plastic.
HOLLY & SMITH ARCHITECTS, APAC
H/S EXPERIENCE As human beings, we spend our personal and professional time within the built environment. As Architects, we are privileged to create spaces where people can gather, live, learn, work, eat, sleep, and worship. Therefore, it is incumbent that we design spaces that enhance the quality of life and nurture a greater passion for living. Our design approach is influenced by the environment, culture, and community in which architecture exists. To take it further... We Design for Life.
Freshkills Park. Once a landfill, now a lush landscape.
Photo© Dan Avila
HOLLY & SMITH ARCHITECTS, APAC 208 North Cate St. , Hammond La 70401 985.345.5210 2302 Magazine St., New Orleans La 70130 504.585.1315 100 E. Vermilion Street, Suite 208 Lafayette, LA 70501 337.279.2010
Mount Trashmore Park. Primary mound is 60’ tall and 800’ long surrounded by two lakes.
Monkey Hill. Audubon Zoo, New Orleans HOLLY & SMITH ARCHITECTS, APAC
Jeffrey Smith is the Design Principal at Holly & Smith Architects. Jeffrey has passionately balanced the dichotomy between the natural and built environment. Professionally, his design direction has focused on sustainability through rigorous evaluations of the natural environment of each building site. He has led this effort as a past president of the American Institute of Architects Louisiana and New Orleans chapters and through the community as a past member of the Hammond Historic District Commission, Hammond Downtown Development District, and Hammond Planning and Zoning Commission, as well as Chairman to several planning committees. His dream is that we build our structures to fit seamlessly into the environment and produce rather than consume energy.