A mixed-use affordable housing campus on the East Coast is set to enter the vanguard of cutting-edge waste practices such as recycling and composting in a city notorious for sidewalks piled high with garbage bags.
The Peninsula in the Bronx, N.Y., which just opened its first phase of 740 total units of affordable housing as well as new community, retail and food incubator spaces, has been designed with a comprehensive plan to reduce waste and separate recyclable materials.
According to the development’s architects WXY architecture + urban design, with Body Lawson Associates, the new project has been created with design advice on better waste management from Clare Miflin of ThinkWoven and operational expertise from Christina Grace of Foodprint Group.
The first building to be complete, a memorable commercial structure housing a food incubator and businesses, contains refrigerated storage and shelf capacity for surplus edible food so it can be donated to local partner organizations. “Food waste will be separated by the food businesses, and processed into fertilizer within a dry aerobic bio-digester,” says Miflin, who with partner including WXY has created a related new initiative called PutWasteToWork.
“The bio-digester takes up to 0.55 tons of food waste a day and processes it with microbes and heat to create a fertilizer,” Miflin says. The operator and manager of the Peninsula, MHANY, is currently seeking a local partner to use the fertilizer, but in the future the company will take it, quality-control it, and sell it as an organic fertilizer, reducing the need for fossil-fuel based fertilizers, she adds. 
According to the project team, Foodprint Group will work with MHANY to train staff, and provide software for tracking all waste types and measuring progress towards zero-waste operations — a rarity among any housing developments and a radically new idea for an affordable community.
According to MHANY and the architects WXY architecture + urban design, the Peninsula’s first residential building, set to open this spring, has a clear plan for managing all recyclable waste streams, from every apartment to collection points. “Every resident will have undercounter bins for recycling and a caddy for food waste,” says Claire Weisz, FAIA, founding principal of WXY. “They will take these to the refuse rooms on each floor, which also host collection of small items like sharps or batteries.”
Building staff bring the recycling and organic waste to the cellar, where there will be a cardboard baler to help manage this rapidly growing waste stream, adds architect Victor Body-Lawson, FAIA. Textile bins will be placed in laundries, and there will be an electronic waste collection point.
Food scraps will be taken to the dry aerobic digester — which is the first time this has been done in a residential building in New York City, says Miflin.
“This approach addresses the key challenge with organics waste collection — making it easy for residents to separate and for staff to manage — given the heavy, smelly nature of the material,” says Miflin. She adds that the bio-digester reduces weight by up to 90% and eliminates pests and odors.
The Peninsula also opens up extensive public green spaces and landscaped outdoor areas, say WXY and BLA. The campus design includes a space to hook up an in-vessel composter to be managed by landscaping staff. This composter takes horticultural waste and food scraps and creates compost for use across the site — both to regenerate the soil to better support stormwater infiltration, and to simply nurture healthy plants and trees in the parklike setting.