Regional and Urban Design Committee


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The Regional and Urban Design Committee (RUDC) aims to improve the quality of the regional and urban environment by promoting excellence in design, planning, and public policy in the built environment. This will be achieved through its member and public education, in concert with allied community and professional groups. Join us!

  • 1.  A future without trash?

    Posted 07-23-2018 17:51


    Much of what is known about Jamestown, the first US settlement, stems from trenches and pits along the old roadways. Those were the places were the garbage was dumped. Garbage then was mostly broken pottery, utensils and construction debris. Almost anything was used, whatever food scraps went to the pigs or other farm animals, clothes were handed down and eventually became rags. There wasn't much paper and certainly no plastic. From that almost zero waste society the US developed to the biggest waste producer in the world (in total tonnage, not per capita), a condition that only a few find objectionable.

    Trash in a landfill: archaic methods

    But it is the straw that broke the camel's back. The trash camel that is, the plastic camel, the solid waste camel. Indeed, the tiny plastic straw was able to catch the attention of news media to illustrate all those issues via the help of a sea turtle with one of those things stuck in its nostril. Thanks to the turtle, media coverage about the mountains of use once and then discard plastic utensils has  reached almost the size of that floating trash island floating around somewhere in the pacific.

    This attention this is a good thing, especially if it is accompanied by real action. As of last week, according to Fortune, eight major companies have promised to remove plastic straws from their arsenal: Starbucks. Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott, American Airlines. Alaska Airlines, SeaWorld Entertainment, Royal Caribbean. Eliminating the plastic suckers won't solve the plastic waste, the trash island or the recycling crisis,  but it is a step in the right direction and it gives the discussion traction. What is the direction of the journey? "Zero Waste!"

    In 2014, in the United States, about 258 million tons of [municipal solid waste] MSW were generated. Over 89 million tons of MSW were recycled and composted, equivalent to a 34.6 percent recycling rate. In addition, over 33 million tons of MSW were combusted with energy recovery and 136 million tons were landfilled. (EPA)
    Seat turtle with straw in nostril

    Caught between full landfills, rejected incinerators, China's ban on contaminated recyclables and the guilt of simply exporting trash to other places, cities find themselves between...


    [Klaus] Philipsen FAIA
    Archplan Inc. Philipsen Architects
    Baltimore MD