Author Archives: Kelly Wu

Posts by Kelly Wu

Memo 3: Annotated Bibliography-Composting in New York City

To: Professor MacBride

From: Kelly Wu

Date: April 15, 2013

Re: Composting in New York City: Residential, Institutional, and Municipal Scales


“Hunts Point Food Distribution Center: Organics Recovery Feasibility Study.” 2005. New York City: DSM Environmental Services.

Summary: The New York City Economic Development Corporation investigated the feasibility of implementing a composting facility near the Hunts Point Food Distribution Center. The Hunts Point Food Distribution Center offers produce to retailers in New York City, generating “approximately 27,400 tons of waste per year…111 tons per day,” of which “three-quarters” are biodegradable (“Hunts Point Food Distribution Center: Organics Recovery Feasibility Study” 2005). The study revealed that anaerobic digestion would be most suitable for an institution like the Hunts Point Market. Bacteria would break down organic compounds without oxygen, creating methane and carbon dioxide in the process. Because anaerobic digestion is initiated in a regulated environment, the methane generated from this process can also be used as a potential energy source. The study also predicted that the compost produced after anaerobic digestion could be sold, creating another source of revenue for its vendors. The operation of the facility would also create potential jobs for those unemployed and significantly reduce the amount of waste exported to facilities located outside of New York. However, despite its many potential benefits, residents around the area do not want a composting site located near their homes. Some vendors believe that a composting facility will negatively impact their businesses because of the stigma associated with composting sites. The study also points out that if New York City agencies were to encourage this idea by providing land, permits, and grants, then the possibility of implementing a composting facility at Hunts Point would be significantly increased.

 Rationale: The Hunts Point Produce Market serves as a great example of how an institution can benefit from a composting facility. The Hunts Point Produce Market is a unique institution in that large amounts of biodegradable and organic waste would be generated from the market on a daily basis. There is a significant need for composting at Hunts Point, and significant benefits will inevitably arise from it, as shown by the statistics in this report. However, despite its many benefits, there are still substantial obstacles to overcome before its implementation. The stigma associated with composting facilities remains a significant problem. Institutional composting is no longer just a matter of costs and benefits, but a matter of radically changing the mindset of people, especially in a city like New York. Government agencies, as this report suggested, can take measures to motivate people to adopt institutional composting. Institutional composting requires a working and understanding relationship with all parties involved, because its success or failure is highly dependent on it.

Lange, Robert. 1999a. “Backyard Composting in NYC: A Program Evaluation”. New York City:

 Summary: The Department of Sanitation investigated the potential benefits of backyard composting in New York City through the implementation of a Backyard Composting Pilot Project. Complications arose when the pilot program revealed that “only one-third of all New York households, or approximately 930,000 homes” had access to backyards (Lange 1999). The segment of the population that had an access to a backyard coupled with an interest in composting was even more minor. Not only did backyard composting have low potential participation rates, but the program also showed that residential composting would have a negligible bearing on the diversion of municipal waste. Despite its failed efforts in redirecting organic waste from landfills, the program still showed many benefits that emerged indirectly from backyard composting, such as improved recycling rates and greater awareness of waste management. Other programs that resulted from the backyard-composting program, such as Compost Giveback days and organic waste workshops, led to better community involvement. In addition, those that participated in the program felt that they were playing an active role in protecting the environment.

 Rationale: This report shows that composting at the residential level is not efficient, especially based on the statistics that resulted from this study. However, something inefficient in terms of statistics does not automatically mean that it is unworthy of practice. Because of this program, the people who engaged in backyard composting actually felt like they were contributing to the health and welfare of the environment.  It even inspired and encouraged people to reflect upon their past consumption and disposal habits. Composting also served as an effective way of educating New Yorkers about waste management techniques. While past waste management strategies encouraged a nonchalant and detached mentality regarding waste, backyard composting urged New Yorkers to assume responsibility of their own waste. Backyard composting might not be efficient in terms of participation and diversion rates, but it remains vital to the psyche and education of New York City residents, which is arguably much more valuable than statistics.

 ———. 1999b. “Composting in NYC: A Complete Program History”. New York City:

 Summary: Over the past decade, the Bureau of Waste Prevention, Reuse and Recycling has explored the possibility of utilizing composting as a waste disposal strategy in New York City. The many different programs to investigate composting revealed the increasing importance of other viable disposal methods of organic waste, especially after the Fresh Kills Landfill closure in 2001.  To look at the future of New York City in relation to composting, the Department of Sanitation emphasized the importance for New York City to understand the “three essential levels of composting” (Lange 1999). Composting can be accomplished in three scales: residential, institutional, and municipal. Residential composting happens at the smallest scale, usually involving the placement of composting bins in residents’ backyards to dispose of biodegradable waste generated from each household. Institutional composting involves composting at different establishments such as, “schools, museums, and City agencies,” and then diverting the waste collected to a composting facility situated near the institution (Lange 1999). Finally, municipal composting, also the largest level of composting, involves collecting and composting all of the city’s organic waste. New York City’s unique environment presents benefits and obstacles to all three levels of composting.

 Rationale: In order to investigate the viability of composting as a waste disposal strategy, it is important to first think about how composting can be implemented in New York City. The benefits of composting are undeniable, but the way in which composting is incorporated into the city must be given further thought due to New York’s densely populated environment. This report’s definition of the three levels of composting (residential, institutional, and municipal) can be used as an angle to evaluate the efficiency of composting and as a means to develop New York City waste disposal policies. Rather than looking at the cost and benefits associated with composting in general, assessing composting in terms of the specific levels can prove to be much more practical. Looking at composting at the residential, institutional, and municipal scale can lead to specific, rather than general, insight on what difficulties are present with each level. I plan on using the three scales of composting as an approach to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of composting, thereby discovering what level of composting can prove to be the most efficient and suitable for New York City.

 ———. 2004. “Municipal Solid Waste Composting Report”. New York City.

Summary: The Bureau of Waste Prevention, Reuse and Recycling attempted to assess whether or not composting is a worthy waste management strategy for the Department of Sanitation to adopt. Composting on the municipal scale tends to involve further complications because residents are not motivated to separate their waste. Even if residents did separate their biodegradable waste, additional transportation that collected only organic wastes would be required, thereby decreasing efficiency levels. Therefore, composting on the municipal scale did not seem like a viable way to treat waste in the past. However, the “residential waste stream is “63.8% degradable and 36.2 non-degradable,” while “the institutional waste stream is 74.5% degradable and 35.5% non-degradable” (Lange 2004). The percentage of biodegradable waste in the city’s waste stream shows that waste can be significantly diverted if it was composted. With mixed waste composting, residents can continue to dispose of their waste as before, and have the ability to capture 100% of its degradable waste stream.  The city’s waste would no longer have to be sent to a landfill, thereby decreasing the amount of methane gas released into the atmosphere. Unfortunately, because of the nature of mixed waste, an extensive examination process is necessary in order to remove contaminants after its collection, which can lead to escalated costs if not monitored. In a pilot study, 500 tons of mixed waste was collected from Staten Island and then sent to a composting facility in Marlborough, Massachusetts for intensive examination. The study predicted the cost of a municipal solid waste composting facility to be $75 per ton, which is $20 less per ton compared to the city’s usual disposal methods. Most importantly, the compost generated from mixed waste met Class I compost standards and pollution requirements.

 Rationale: Composting at the municipal scale used to be inefficient for a city like New York to consider because of its dense population. Sending the city’s waste to a landfill was also the most effective way to treat waste in the economic sense, but obviously not the environmental sense. However, if mixed waste composting can be accomplished on the municipal level, then New York City can have a potential waste management strategy that can be efficient in both the financial and environmental sense. Seeing the statistics derived from this report, it is obvious that mixed waste composting on the municipal scale merits further research and development. If a viable waste management strategy emerges, it is the city’s responsibility to further explore the options and overcome the obstacles associated with each option. However, it is also important to consider where the composting facility would be located if such a program was implemented. Should the facility be housed in the city’s borders or would the city choose to transport its waste to a place such as Marlborough, Massachusetts? New York City has the duty to handle its own wastes, and looking into sustainable waste management strategies is just a start.

 Ligon, Paul. 2003. “Rikers Composting Project Report”. Massachusetts: Tellus Institute.

Summary: Rikers Island, the “largest municipal jail complex in the United States,” is an example of a densely populated institution situated in a relatively confined area (Ligon 2003). It generates “approximately 7,000 tons of food waste annually,” most of which was transported to the Fresh Kills Landfill prior to 2001 (Ligon 2003). The amount of organic waste produced by this institution makes it suitable for institutional composting, thereby inspiring the implementation of its Compost Project. Organic waste is first separated and then collected using color-coded plastic containers. The waste is transported to a composting facility situated nearby, where the utilization of an in-vessel, agitated bay technique is applied to initiate the composting of the organic material. Rikers Island’s composting facility conscientiously mitigates odors by keeping the facility under negative air pressure, preventing odorous airs from escape. In addition, the application of a biofilter system, a system containing microorganisms, also eliminates compounds from the compost that produce smells. Because certain parts of Rikers Island used to be a landfill, the compost produced from this process is then used to restore soil quality in portions of the Island, thus creating a sustainable system. The Compost Project in Rikers Island has led to reduced costs and minimized environmental impact of the island, with little expense to the island’s prisoners.

 Rationale: The Compost Project at Rikers Island is a prime example of composting at the institutional level. When large quantities of organic waste are generated in a relatively confined space, such as Rikers Island, it enables the efficient collection of waste and potential cost savings. This self-sustaining Compost Project reveals that composting on the institutional level can be accomplished in a conscientious and proficient way. However, Rikers Island differs from any other institution in New York City. It has enough space that can be allocated to situate a composting facility nearby, minimizing transportation costs. It has a supply of labor that can readily separate and sort out the waste prior to its transportation, minimizing contamination costs. In addition, the inmates housed at Rikers Island had and have minimal say in the implementation of a composting facility nearby. Other institutions in New York City might not be able to afford the space, time, and labor required for institutional composting. Without the space to house a composting facility nearby and labor to separate the waste, costs can escalate rapidly. Residents nearby might not desire a composting facility, which might even lead to public outcry. Rikers Island’s composting facility serves to show that institutional composting definitely merits further research and development, but the type of institutions that is suitable for composting also needs to be kept in mind. The successes of composting at one institution may not be applied to all institutions.

 Norgaard, Kari. 2011. Living in Denial: Climate Change, Emotions, and Everyday Life. Massachusetts: MIT Press.

Summary: Kari Norgaard’s “Climate Change and Background Noise” describes powerful feelings of fear, helplessness, and guilt active in the United States in relation to climate change. With climate change rife with so many uncertainties and risks, many feel that they are helpless in the situation and victims of their political system. Fearful of future impending natural disasters, guilty because of their own contributions to climate change, and helpless due to feelings of incompetence, many have no idea how to deal with climate change. Faced with the enormity of climate change, these feelings of fear, helplessness, and guilt combine to make climate change fade into ignored “background noise” (Norgaard 2011). It is difficult to imagine how the power of an individual or even a city can alter the course of climate change, but such feelings encourage even more inactivity among United States citizens. For the most part, people have accepted climate change to be true, but they continue to behave in ways that do not reflect the acceptance of this knowledge, which is no less worse than outright “denial” (Norgaard 2011).

Rationale: Feelings of fear, guilt, and helplessness can lead to a vicious cycle of denial.  If caught up in this vicious cycle, climate change would just continue to escalate until it’s too late. However, composting on the residential level encourages New Yorkers to take part in fighting against climate change.  With backyard composting, New Yorkers can lessen their feelings of helplessness by actively reducing their own organic waste and educating themselves on waste management in the process.  Although this might not actually stop climate change on a global level, the feeling of agency, the idea that everyone can play a part in reducing their own environmental impact is invaluable to the psyche of New Yorkers. Ultimately, people need to be knowledgeable about climate change, and those that are educated about it need to be reassured that they can help. The average person might not have much control over their political system or the decision making of corporations in relation to the environment at large. However, they do have control over their own consumption and disposal habits, which backyard composting urges people to reflect upon.

 Pellow, David. 2007. Resisting Global Toxics: Transnational Movements for Environmental Justice. Massachusetts: MIT Press.

 Summary: David Pellow highlights how prevailing and dominant environmental racism can be, transcending local, national, and international boundaries. Developed nations such as the United States send their waste to marginalized neighborhoods or countries, letting those without a voice reap all the negative costs of poor waste management policies.  The United States’ waste management strategies encourage an “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” mentality and attitude towards waste disposal (Pellow 2007). Towns such as Chester have been the victims of this mentality and attitude, and residents have been exposed to carcinogenic and toxic waste for years. The waste generated by wealthier cities may be “out-of-mind” to some, but very much a reality to the residents of Chester. While people of developed nations continue to consume and dispose waste in immeasurable quantities, the forgotten nation or neighborhood becomes even more disempowered and helpless. Since every society produces waste, it is necessary for the implementation of better and more sustainable waste disposal strategies in order to prevent further exploitation of the disempowered.

 Rationale: Disempowered nations or neighborhoods do not have the responsibility or obligation to treat the waste of a developed nation or city. It is arguably each nation’s own duty to treat the waste generated within in its borders. Like Pellow says, every society produces waste, and this cannot be avoided. However, waste does not magically disappear after its disposal. If a city chooses to treat and manage its own waste through composting, where would such facility be implemented?  Would the government plan to have the facility situated in a disempowered neighborhood instead of a disempowered country? If no one is willing to place a composting facility in his or her neighborhood, how could New York City manage to treat its own waste? Would New York City have to resort to exporting their waste outside its borders again? Composting definitely has its merits, but additional aspects such as location, public participation, and community concern must be considered as well.

*Cited using Chicago Manual Style (author-date)


Rewriting the rules of Environmental Racism

Pellow’s “Ch.4: The Global Village Dump” points out how prevalent and dominant environmental racism can be, happening on local, national, and global levels. Poor waste management techniques encourage the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality that contributes even more to the problem. As MacBride’s “Ch.5: Extended Plastics Responsibility” says, “the handling of modern discards frequently entail the slow or rapid release of uncertain risks to health and ecosystems at multiple points on local and global scales.” The waste generated by cities might be out of sight and out of mind to many, but someone forgotten eventually reaps the negative costs. In terms of New York City, what can the city government do to eliminate this “out of side, out of mind” mentality within New Yorkers? Unfortunately, our waste does not and will not magically disappear. Are there other waste management techniques that can be more suitable? How can we “rewrite those rules” of environmental racism?

Memo 2: The History of Composting

History of Composting

2334 BC: The Akkadian Empire incorporated the use of manure within their agricultural practices in the Mesopotamian Valley. This practice was known and recorded on their clay tablets (Smith, Friend, and Johnson 2012).

18th to early 19th Century: Because the United States had an abundance of land rich with nutrients, many farmers disregarded the idea of sustainable farming practices. The use of composting as a means to maintain soil fertility was not considered a worthwhile practice to invest in, which led to significant depletion of vital nutrients in the soil (Blum 1992).

Mid 19th Century: The depletion of soil nutrients because of unsustainable farming practices led to a substantial decrease in crop production, especially in areas near the East Coast. The decline in crop production prompted farmers to explore better and more sustainable ways to farm. Composting was seen as a solution to the problem. Farmers now stressed the importance of reusing organic wastes produced in their own farms as a means to maintain soil fertility. The growth of urban cities such as New York and Philadelphia also played a role in the renewed interest towards composting in agriculture. Increased organic wastes produced from these cities were transported to farms that were then used as fertilizers, thus creating a sustainable relationship (Blum 1992).

Late 19th to early 20th Century: Interestingly enough, urbanization that originally fueled the idea of composting, was the same mechanism that started to undermine it. Further urbanization spurred demands of agriculture produce that could not be met by farmers who used compost as natural fertilizers. The previous sustainable relationship between the cities’ organic waste and farmers’ fertilizers began to deteriorate as the density of cities made it progressively challenging to recycle (Blum 1992).

1918: After World War I ended, an excess of nitrogen that was originally designed for explosives was redirected to the agricultural industry. Synthetic nitrogen was used as a form of inexpensive artificial fertilizer. Even government authorities encouraged farmers to utilize artificial fertilizers to eliminate food shortages and meet the demands of the growing urban population. Unfortunately, these artificial fertilizers contributed to the substantial deterioration of soil quality and soil erosion (Blum 1992).

 1920’s: Considered the pioneer in organic farming, Sir Albert Howard’s work in India concluded that the quality of crops was primarily dependent upon the health and fertility of the soil, which was in turn dependent upon humus. Humus, also known as stable organic matter, was in turn tied to the vitality of the soil. His invention of the Indore Process involved composting layers of vegetable and animal waste in trenches, alternated with animal manure. Farmers were also required to physically turn the compost twice every six months and maintain its moisture. This natural process was seen to have the capacity to salvage the soil nutrients depleted by artificial fertilizers (Blum 1992).

1930’s: Droughts and previous exhaustive farming practices led to the Dust Bowl in the United States, one of the most prominent agricultural catastrophes in history. The experience of the Dust Bowl triggered worldwide reflection and speculation upon past agricultural practices (Blum 1992).

1940’s: Environmental and soil conservationists extensively studied the makings of soil vitality and the causes that led to the Dust Bowl in 1930’s. The use of humus and composting resurfaced again as an environmentally sound agricultural practice worthy of looking into (Blum 1992).

1950’s: Composting in the United States began to develop not only as an agricultural practice, but also as a method to treat municipal solid waste. Big cities continued to produce vast amounts of waste because of increased wealth and population growth, which polluted the environment and reduced the efficiency of existing disposable methods. Organic activists and environmental conservationists also strongly advocated cities to use composting as a means for waste management (Blum 1992).

1960’s: J.I. Rodale, a notable advocate for organic farming and health in the United States, encouraged the use of composting in his publications. His publications provided alternative views of looking at agriculture and waste treatment (Blum 1992).

1970: From the 1950’s to 1970’s, various companies surfaced in the United States hoping to build a business in the composting industry. Composting plants sought to produce and sell compost as a form fertilizer, similar to certain countries in Europe. The majority of these companies failed due to lack of governmental policy and financial support (Blum 1992).

1980’s: Waste management in urban cities became a more and more crucial topic as landfill disposal costs escalated and the availability landfill space diminished. Alternative methods, such as composting, were explored (Blum 1992).

1990’s: The Department of Sanitation of New York experimented with different pilot programs in Brooklyn and Staten Island to investigate the viability of composting in the city. The results of the pilot programs revealed that these methods were costly and inefficient to operate on a large scale. The composting technology also produced unflattering odors, and was considered by the Department of Sanitation to be an inappropriate way of waste management due to the density of the city. The pilot program designed to study residential backyard composting concluded that this method was a very successful method in recycling organic wastes. However, the DSNY also pointed out that backyard composting does not appeal to many people, and will have little to no effect on the city’s waste stream (“Composting Pilot Projects and Studies” 2013).

1992: After several pilot programs, New York City’s Solid Waste Management Plan continued to advocate for an in-depth exploration of composting as a potential waste management technique (Lange 2004).

 1992: The Bureau of Waste Prevention, Reuse, and Recycling started to host “Compost Givebacks” days and supplied free compost to the residents of New York. The compost was derived from The Fresh Kills Leaf Composting site. The NYC Department of Sanitation was stated to have the capacity to collect 15,000 tons of fall leaves and 2,500 tons of Christmas tress for composting (“Compost Giveback Program” 2013).

1993: The NYC Compost Project was established to educate New Yorkers and different organizations on composting. The NYC Compost Project is the primary sponsorship for a variety of other composting workshops and programs (“NYC Compost Project” 2013).

1997: The NYC Compost Project sold backyard-composting bins for $20 instead of its original price of $80 through the use of subsidies. The NYC Compost Project hoped to combine the sale of backyard composting bin with the efforts of “Compost Givebacks” days to encourage New Yorkers to manage their own waste through composting (“Compost Giveback Program” 2013).

1999: The Department of Sanitation launched a Backyard Composting Pilot project to investigate the plausibility of implementing a large-scale backyard-composting project in New York. The results of the pilot program revealed that New Yorkers who had access to backyards and an interest in composting were uncommon. Although the pilot project showed that backyard composting would not significantly reduce the exportation of municipal waste, the Department of Sanitation continued to encourage New Yorkers to compost because doing so would raise awareness of waste management (Lange 1999).

2001: The Fresh Kills Landfill located in Staten Island closed in 2001, eliminating New York City’s primary source of waste disposal. The closure of the Fresh Kills Landfills rendered New York completely dependent upon other facilities for the disposal of its wastes.  New York signed contracts with other waste management facilities, costing at an average of $70 per ton at the time (Lange 2004).

2000-2001: The Department of Sanitation conducted a research project to determine if mixed waste composting has the potential to further develop as a waste-management strategy for New York City. The projected collected 500 tons of mixed waste from Staten Island and was sent to Marlborough, Massachusetts. The waste was placed into rotating drums, which was then sorted and separated. The project discovered that this method could produce compost of worthy value, but the extensive screening of non-degradable materials before composting led to escalated costs (“Composting Pilot Projects and Studies” 2013).

2005: The Department of Sanitation partnered with the NYC Economic Development Corporation to analyze the possibility of a large-scale composting program that would use organic waste derived from the Fulton Fish Market and Hunts Point Produce Market. The Department of Sanitation hoped to reduce NYC waste and assist these wholesale markets in moderating their disposal costs. The project determined that anaerobic digestion is a technology worthy of further investigation in terms of waste management for these markets (“Composting Pilot Projects and Studies” 2013).

2011: The program known as GrowNYC was launched to gather organic waste from New York City residents. The waste collected from Greenmarkets would be sent to various compost sites for composting (“Grow NYC” 2013).

2012: The Bureau of Waste Prevention, Reuse, and Recycling created the NYC Compost Project Local Organics Recovery program to offer New Yorkers additional places to drop off their organic wastes (“NYC’s Local Organics Recover Programs” 2013).

2013: GrowNYC reached a milestone by collecting over one million pounds of organic waste since its implementation (“Grow NYC” 2013).

Works Cited

Blum, Barton. “Composting and the Roots of Sustainable Agriculture.” Agricultural History 66.2 (1992): 171–188. JSTOR. Web. 5 Mar. 2013.

“Compost Giveback Program.”, 2013. Web. 12 Mar. 2013.

“Composting Pilot Projects and Studies.”, 2013. Web. 12 Mar. 2013.

“Grow NYC.” GrowNYC. GrowNYC, 2013. Web. 5 Mar. 2013.

Lange, Robert. Municipal Solid Waste Composting Report. Rep., Jan. 2004. Web. 5 Mar. 2013.

Lange, Robert. Rep. New York City Department of Sanitation, June 1999. Web. 5 Mar. 2013.

“NYC Compost Project.”, 2013. Web. 12 Mar. 2013.

“NYC’s Local Organics Recovery Programs.” New York City Department of Sanitation, 2013. Web. 5 Mar. 2013.

Smith, Martha, Duane Friend, and Holly Johnson. “Composting for the Homeowner.” Composting for the Homeowner. University of Illinois, 2012. Web. 5 Mar. 2013.


The Interdependencies and Dependencies among NYC’s Infrastructure

The reading “Infrastructure Impacts and Adaptation Challenges” reinforces New York City’s increased vulnerability because of its interdependencies and dependencies among infrastructures, making it further susceptible to extreme weather events mentioned in “Four Storms in Quick Succession Expose the Flaws in New York City’s Electrical System.” Looking at the flip side of the coin, do you think New York City can use the interdependencies among its infrastructures and turn it into an advantage in its infrastructure adaptation to climate change? If so, how?  What do you think is lacking in New York City’s current plan for infrastructure adaptation to climate change? Do you think New York City is prepared to face another storm such as Sandy or will its infrastructure crumble once again because of the interdependencies and dependencies among them?

Memo 1: The Future of Composting in NYC

To: Professor MacBride

From: Kelly Wu

Date: February 13, 2013

Re: Research Topic Proposal-The Future of Composting in New York City

My topic for this paper will concern the feasibility and adaptability of a widespread composting program in New York City. Disposal of food comprises much of the city’s waste, and investigating in sustainable methods to transform organic matter into something useful is worthy of exploration. Furthermore, the controversy concerning landfills and environmental justice clearly calls for a much healthier and safer method of waste management.

I would like to explore the challenges and obstacles of composting in such a unique place like New York City. Ultimately, I would like to answer the question: how would New York City implement a large scale composting program in the future? In order to answer this question, I would need to conduct research concerning the history and background of composting. What are the advantages and disadvantages of composting in New York City? Which method of composting (vermicomposting, aerobic composting, backyard composting, etc) is more beneficial to New York? Why has the city failed thus far in implementing a widespread composting program? Will alternatives such as landfills be a more efficient approach? Hopefully, by answering these questions, I will gain greater insight regarding the role of composting in the future of New York. I am also interested in comparing different successful composting programs around the world, and determine what features can be adapted into New York’s program.

For my research, I will start by looking at governmental websites such as and the U.S Environmental Protection Agency for background information regarding New York’s progress with composting thus far. I will also look at the NYC Department of Sanitation’s NYC Compost Project as well as visit different local compost project sites like the Lower East Side Ecology Center. I also discovered that there are compost sites at various Greenmarkets, which might prove to be yet another valuable resource in the future. In addition, I have looked at several environmental science databases such as Web of Science, ScienceDirect, and GreenFILE. I am concerned that my topic might be a bit general at the moment, but I am hopeful that it will become more specific as I delve deeper into my research.

Comments by Kelly Wu

"I think it is extremely interesting to view Baruch College as a city, and determining whether or not Baruch students actually have the “right to Baruch College.” Like Anderson says, I believe that a major component of the “right to the city” is “creating different opportunities for different types of people to interact in a variety of places.” Baruch College has one of the most diverse student bodies in the world, and its student population largely contributes to the “spontaneous interactions” that Anderson endorses. I believe that the lounges and plazas at Baruch College help provide an initial platform for this type of interaction to occur. The clubroom area helps members of the same clubs create friendships with one another and the lounge areas support relationships between people who have similar academic interests. Political platforms at Baruch College also serve to represent student interests and allow students’ voices to be heard. I believe this is a great start to allow Baruch students to have the “right to Baruch College.” However, with all of this, Baruch still seems to be lacking the vibe of colleges with an actual campus. With all its diversity, students still tend to cluster around those of similar interests or racial and ethnic background, separating the “us” from “them,” as Frug suggests as a distinct division between cities, but happens in a much more subtle way at Baruch College. Therefore, in addition to just having a plaza, I would like to see much more activities being hosted in the area. Activities such as multi-cultural events would encourage more diverse interactions. I would also like to see the implementation of nature, maybe even a garden, into the plaza and Baruch College itself, thereby creating a more open and inviting atmosphere. I think Baruch does a good job in providing a platform for Baruch students to have the right to Baruch College, but there is definitely more room for improvements."
--( posted on Apr 7, 2013, commenting on the post right to mix with people )
"Nadia Anderson’s “Social Infrastructure as a Means to Achieve the Right to the City” clearly endorses Henri Lefebvre original definition of the “right to the city.” Both Anderson and Lefebvre’s idea of the “right to the city” emphasizes the relationships and social interactions that arise from the city, and not just the infrastructure of the city itself. Planning a city requires looking at places as “systems rather than objects” because people are interactive creatures, and the relationships that they create within the space of cities ultimately defines the city itself. The mistake that many designers make in planning the city is accentuating only individual “objects” or “buildings” of the city and failing to looking at the city as a whole, as a place for communication and a platform for interaction. Another important characteristic of a city is its ability to create “opportunities for different types of people to interact in a variety of spaces.” A lot of times, neighborhoods in cities are separated by socioeconomic classes, which can fuel “a desire to avoid, rather than engage with those who live on the other side…separating us from them,” as mentioned in “Strategies for Empowering Cities." City planning can significantly contribute to this segregation if it only emphasizes on businesses and corporations, further marginalizing minority groups, and denying them the “right to the city.” In addition to looking at the city as a whole, I agree with Anderson and Lefebvre in that “participation in decision-making regarding the space of the city and the ability to appropriate this space are critical components to achieving the right to the city.” Since a city’s inhabitants are the ones living in the city, it follows that everyone should have a say in the decision-making of planning of it, thereby giving a voice to even the ones that are disenfranchised. The ability to appropriate the space of all the city’s inhabitants will also shape the city in a way that would reflect and include all of its occupants, not just the privileged. I believe that the inclusion of all city residents in the decision-making of the city will lead to endless imagination and creativity because of the diversity of opinions and viewpoints, thus defining the “right to the city.” To me, the "right to the city" is a city where no one gets left behind, and everyone's point of view is regarded as worthy of examination."
--( posted on Apr 7, 2013, commenting on the post What is your right to the city ? )
"Judging by “Incinerators in Disguise” and the Department of Sanitation’s “Request for Proposals for New and Emerging Solid Waste Management Technology,” it is clear that many communities around the world are in dire need of safe and newly improved waste treatment technologies. However, it seems like the government of these communities are acting rather hastily in their implementation of these facilities and overlooking the real needs of its members. The possibility of new incinerators that have “no emissions” and “no hazardous wastes” all seem to be beneficial investment options, but further investigation behind these claims are imperative for the long term well-being of those that live at close proximity around these facilities. I believe incineration facilities are capable of operating pollution- free. However, if the government does not impose necessary, thorough, and periodic inspections and regulations, these incineration facilities would not put much effort in making their facilities exactly as “pollution-free” as they claim to be. Companies that sanction the environment are knowingly emitting hazardous gases, even while claiming their facilities to be safe and harmless. In addition to the improvement of the actual technology behind these new incinerators, it seems like the government and the companies involved are also in need of enhanced communication and integrity. Residents of New York City might very well respond to an emerging incinerator near their vicinity with skepticism and objection. The many failed projects as outlined in “Incinerators in Disguise” reveal the many uncertainties that can bring about catastrophic consequences to the New York community. To know that government negligence played a part in many failed incineration projects in other places does not increase the confidence of any of our residents, and it is understandable why residents might vehemently object to an incinerator in their neighborhood. I myself will very much feel the same way. However, new waste treatment facilities are essential to the future of New York City. A proposal that has thoroughly investigated emission levels, residential support, environmental impact, and implemented with active government and community involvement might just rebuild the confidence of New Yorkers enough to take on this new project in the future."
--( posted on Feb 24, 2013, commenting on the post Engage: Waste Incineration in our Community )
"After reading “Incinerators in Disguise” and learning that New York is requesting proposals for “new and emerging solid waste management technologies,” I believe that rather than using the technologies mentioned in “Incinerators in Disguise,” New York should instead examine the failures of the mentioned projects and learn to be extremely cautious when implementing its own waste management technologies. The failures of the projects outlined in “Incinerators in Disguise” seem to be more worthy of analysis than its unsuccessful technologies accompanied with dangerous emission levels and hazardous wastes. The failures of the projects summarized in “Incinerators in Disguise” does bring ironic insight into what characteristics a solid waste management technology proposal should possess, especially in relation to New York City. First of all, the government should take measures in ensuring that the proposed technology will not have any negative consequences towards anyone around the neighborhood. If the company claims to have “no emissions” in its proposal, the government should ensure that that claim could actually be achieved and is continually achieved once the technology is implemented. The proposal should also provide a thorough explanation on how they plan to achieve its “no emissions” claim and convincing evidence that their claim is actually valid. The government should also thoroughly investigate into any claims the proposal mentions and require trustworthy “environmental impact reports.” The environmental impact reports should happen before the implementation, and not after its implementation. Finally, the proposal should be transparent. By transparent, I believe that the residents of New York City should have an active say in whatever solid waste management technology the government wants to implement in the city. The proposal should be made available to the public for scrutiny, objection, and debate. Public hearings should be held before any implementation begins, and the opinions of the residents cannot be overlooked. The company’s actions should be transparent to the government at all times as well as to the residents of New York City. Judging by the unsuccessful technologies mentioned in the reading, continuous interaction among the city, the company, and the residents is also crucial for the flourish of any waste management technology facility and its nearby communities."
--( posted on Feb 24, 2013, commenting on the post Engage: Best Waste Conservation Route for NYC? )