'Rubbish In, Resources Out' is a challenging new report written by Dow Jones Architects in collaboration with Arup, commissioned by the Greater London Authority and Design for London in November 2007. It develops the Mayor’s London Plan on waste management in the city, which sets out to dramatically change the way London deals with its waste.
The report addresses the London Plan’s ambition to achieve self-sufficiency in waste, examining the way that the city can deal with the waste it produces. Waste is becoming a high-profile issue in London whose household waste is mostly sent to landfill. This report profiles new and emerging technologies, now regularly used in Europe and further afield, providing an alternative to landfill and mass burn incineration.
The technologies considered for the proposals are anaerobic digestion and advanced thermal treatment (ATT) of waste. Anaerobic digestion takes biodegradable waste and breaks it down in enclosed vessels, turning it into compost and a biogas rich in methane. Advanced thermal treatments, such as gasification/pyrolysis and plasma gasification, take residual waste unsuitable for recycling, composting or anaerobic digestion, and convert it into syngas at high temperatures, leaving ash and char which can be used, for example, in building construction. The biogas produced by all of these processes can be converted into local electricity and heat, and the technologies meet the requirements of the Renewables Obligation Order 2002.
As the new waste treatment plants will be inserted into the city fabric, it was clear that thoughtful design is necessary to find an appropriate place in our streets. The report examines the impact that these plants have on their surroundings, both physical, environmental and commercial, and
presents an integrated perspective on an urban strategy of urban waste treatment facilities.
In response to the rich and complex urban situation of London, Dow Jones Architects have developed four different scenarios that examine different types of treatment technology, scale and location. These range from a large scale, multi-borough facility on the fringe of the city, to a small scale, local facility on a restricted inner city site.
Scenario 1: Integrated resource recovery park on the urban fringe
As the largest of the scenarios, this integrated resource park brings together all elements of the waste stream on one site, combining recycling, gasification and anaerobic digestion, and eliminates transportation between sites, working at optimum efficiency. Scenario 1 is situated in the outer areas of London amongst industrial and retail park zones that offer the required land and density.
Scenario 2: Gasification plant on an industrial riverside site
This gasification/pyrolysis plant expands existing recycling and waste transfer stations situated along the length of the Thames riverbank. Historically associated with industry, the river will be used for waste transportation after treatment.
Scenario 3: Anaerobic digestion plant on a dense inner city site
Perhaps the most innovative of the proposals, this small anaerobic digestion plant is built at ground and basement level at the core of larger, new residential and commercial developments. Commercial units at street level with residential floors above wrap the perimeter and render it almost invisible from the street, save for access doors and a modest transport flow. The roof of the plant becomes a raised courtyard garden for communal use. The proposal is suitable for inclusion in inner-city situations and fitted into sites with limited access and street frontage. By being concealed, it can be used in areas where planning, contextual and street impact issues are paramount.
Scenario 4: Gasification Plant on a dense inner city site
This proposal places a small gasification plant on a central urban site, where it sits comfortably amongst the range of buildings found in the middle of the city. It is intended that this plant will acquire an iconic character, a landmark of waste recycling within the city. By doing so, it brings waste treatment into visibility and thus embraces and promotes the very modern institution of this everyday urban activity.
The above scenarios are thought of as an approach that can be adopted by local authorities and developers according to the specific needs and morphologies of particular sites. The report presents an extensive analysis of each scenario's data, layout, appearance, operations, required area and transportation, as well as the challenges and benefits of each development. It addresses common misconceptions associated with the plants, such as appearance, noise and odour. Comparisons with recognisable buildings and established city industries are provided to assist understanding of scale and vehicle movement etc. Finally the report examines six case studies in which advanced waste treatment technologies have been successfully designed abroad.
'Rubbish In, Resources Out' is the outcome of an ambitious vision for London and a coherent and integrated waste strategy for the city. It presents an uncommon encounter between advanced technology and infrastructure and a deep appreciation of the urban situation. It confronts traditional preconceptions of waste and waste treatment, and through realistic and creative design, brings about an arresting transformation of what is wrongly thought as an unpleasant intrusion in the city. Ultimately, 'Rubbish In, Resources Out' opens up the possibility for London to be pre-eminent in the field of sustainable living in the metropolis.
Client: Greater London Authority
Project status: Completed
Ove Arup and Partners