Reimagining Waste: What We Build on Former Landfills

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In 2010, 250 million tons of trash were created in the United States and 85 million tons were recycled, according to the EPA. That means 165 million tons of trash had to go somewhere, and much of it went to landfills. On an average day, the country’s largest landfills can receive up to 9,000 tons of waste, each. Although many of these landfills cover large areas, they do have limited lifespans. So what happens when a landfill reaches the end of its operational life? Earth911 has compiled a list of landfills that have been repurposed for new uses, and believe it or not many of them take sustainability and eco-consciousness into consideration.

1. Freshkills Park - Staten Island, New York

landfill, recreation, reuse
Photo: City of New York Parks & Recreation
landfill, recreation, reuse
skate park, recreation, landfill
Millenium Parklands, Hassell
Bjarke Ingels Group, waste-to-energy
landfill, concerts, reuse
landfill, reuse, recreation
kite festival, recreation, landfill
landfill, park

Staten Island in New York City used to be home to the largest landfill in the world. Fresh Kills landfill received the city’s trash for decades before finally being closed in 2001, when the last garbage – debris from the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks – was added.

Now, plans to turn the landfill into a 2,200 acre park are underway. Freshkills Park (“kill,” by the way, is Dutch for stream) will be three times the size of Central Park and include waterfront activities, areas for sports and art, wildlife areas and even equestrian facilities, according to the City of New York Parks & Recreation Department.

Methane, the gas produced by decomposing trash in a landfill, is currently being collected and sold. Future plans for the park will incorporate other sustainable efforts including wind turbines, solar cells and green building principles.

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