They shall inherit the Earth
GenerationsYand Z are aware of the global challenges they face. But by the time they succeed to positions of power, it could be too late to make the changes we need now. What would today’s London be like if reshaped by the generation that will inherit the city in decades to come? We asked fourth-year students at the London School of Architecture to share their proposals for transforming the lives of Londoners in the borough of Hackney. Within eight design think tanks, students and practices collaborated to reimagine everyday activities, from waste and wilderness to playfulness and pleasure.
Landfill produces harmful gases such as methane and CO2. Exporting waste subcontracts, rather than solves, the problem and brings the additional environmental cost of transport. It is also putting the UK’s relationship with other countries under increasing pressure. The challenge is to tackle the problem at source by instigating a waste-free economy, starting with a pilot project to turn Hackney into London’s first zero-waste borough.
The first step is to abolish door-to-door waste collection. Unwanted items will have to be taken to commodity stops, maintained by Hackney Council, where they will be barcoded and tracked before being recycled, reused or, as a last resort, sent to incineration stations used to power Hackney’s commercial and industrial grid. Commodity stops will be built from recycled and repurposed materials and will include workshop space where people can repurpose or learn to fix unwanted or broken possessions, and space for sharing food that is surplus to requirements or nearing its sell-by date.
The second step is to retrofit the borough’s housing stock with anaerobic digesters. The De Beauvoir Estate has been selected as a pilot scheme for the retrofitting of residential blocks. Each flat is fitted with a disposal pipe that runs through the kitchen window to a shared anaerobic digester in what is currently the car park. The typical Victorian house is retrofitted with an anaerobic digester that breaks down organic matter and produces biogas for the home. Gardens incorporate shared composting and wormeries.
As a final phase, Millfields Depot, an existing transfer site that takes responsibility for all fly-tipping within the borough, is used as a testbed for an environmentally friendly incinerator and anaerobic digester that contributes to powering Hackney’s grid. The project incorporates a public piazza as a symbol of Hackney’s progressive attitude to waste. Over time, there will be a network of incinerators and anaerobic digesters across the borough
Hackney will become the first borough not to allow any waste to leave its boundaries. By 2025, the elimination of kerbside recycling and waste collection will have had a significant impact on behaviour and consumer choice with shops such as Pret a Manger facing a choice between closing down or adopting a zero-waste policy. The introduction of anaerobic digesters for residential buildings and the transformation of Millfields Depot will be complete by 2040. By 2050 Hackney’s zero-waste strategy will have been copied across the UK and, hopefully, the world.