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The city’s Reimagine Phoenix initiative is turning garbage into a valuable resource.
Having found standard trash disposal unsustainable like many cities across the United States, Phoenix leaders have been exploring innovative ways to divert or reuse everyday waste.
In a recent video update on Reimagine Phoenix , an initiative launched in February 2013 by Mayor Greg Stanton, the city highlights its efforts to achieve 40 percent waste diversion from landfills by 2020.
In March, Phoenix City Hall put out a request for proposals to seek out new technologies and ideas from from private sector aimed at helping turn the linear economy around trash—from the time resources are extracted, manufactured, consumed and deposited in a landfill—into a circular one, where everything is recycled, repurposed or reused as new products.
“We're going to continue to grow, the population is going to continue to grow, and if we continue our current [ways] it’s just not sustainable,” Assistant Public Works Director Ginger Spencer told KNXV-TV . “We want people to basically take our trash and turn it into a resource.”
More than 50 percent of what people trash in Phoenix is actually compostable and 14.7 percent recyclable, according to a 2014 study requested by Public Works, with a savings of $4 million in transport and landfill operations possible if disposal was done properly.
Similarly, the study found there was a 21.1 percent “contamination” rate of materials in recycling bins with compostable, recoverable and nonrecoverable items, resulting in an extra $1 million a year in processing fees for the city.
Phoenix’s Resource Innovation Campus, roughly three miles southwest of the Arizona State Capitol near the Salt River, contains both the city’s waste transfer and material recycling facilities and now offers space for technologists on site. A state-of-the-art composting farm should be operating in late summer 2016.
About 50 acres of adjacent vacant land are available for lease by businesses and manufacturers looking to make use of the innovations developed at the campus.
Arizona State University’s Resource Innovation and Solutions Network will manage an on-site emerging technology incubator expected to attract sustainability researchers and resource management experts.
RISN already has hubs in Nigeria and Guatemala, with others in the Netherlands and the U.S. Virgin Islands on the way, making Phoenix’s resource management endeavor international in scope.
The university’s work has already given rise to a pilot food scrap program, diverting hundreds of thousands of tons of the organic material from landfills into things like animal feed.
Phoenix already runs a Save as You Reduce and Recycle program, Bag Central Station grocers that accept castaway plastic bags and curbside green organics collection in brown bins for repurposing as mulch, compost or fuel.
“The [call for innovators] and [request for proposals] innovate how the city processes what you and I toss in the trash can and the recycle bin and puts those items back into our economy to generate jobs, manufacture products and attract new businesses to Phoenix,” Community and Economic Development Department Project Manager Gretchen Wolfe told the student-run Downtown Devil .