Pushing the Urban Resource Recovery and Reuse Program: Where is the Data (and How to Use It)


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The Town+Gown:NYC’s Urban Resource Recovery Working Group has been developing an initiative to leverage the City’s capital program to close construction and demolition waste (CDW) material loops. It is called Closing Loops City Program Initiative or CLCPI. At several Working Group meetings, members raised the issue of needing CDW material and volume data to inform CLCPI development and estimate potential capital cost savings from the CLCPI. Meetings with participating agencies revealed a mixed bag at the agency level, running from no data, to procurement data from which CDW materials and volumes might be estimated, to a less-than- complete level of CDW materials and volumes generated on past projects. During a 2019 Pratt/Design Corps project involving a communications strategy to educate the general public and design and construction professionals about the environmental and financial sustainability benefits of closing the soil loop, the students researched New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (NYS DEC) beneficial use designations (BUDs) for excavated soils, which led to the discovery of NYS DEC’s reports that could serve as an initial data source to get a sense of CDW material and volumes generated at the City level. This public data set generated a data science project that NYU/Tandon-CUSP’s capstone program picked up for spring/summer 2021. Publicly available data from transfer stations (Permitted C&D Debris Handling and Recovery Facility Annual Report) and landfills (Active Construction and Demolition (C&D) Debris Landfill Annual/Quarterly Report) permits the creation of CDW “trip” data (origin and endpoint) by CDW material and volume. These reports, which show the middle and end segments of the CDW journey, are, however, in the form of typed or handwritten forms submitted to and scanned by NYS DEC., so that extracting the CDW trip data for purposes of estimating CDW materials and volumes and potential cost savings has been an initial impediment for the City CLCPI to estimate potential capital cost savings. The CUSP team spent the spring semester developing code to machine read these reports to create the CDW trip data, but the code could not work due to the variety in form completion (handwritten, typed, “see attached” in fields) and other data aspects.  The CUSP team then manually created CDW trip data from the forms to have sufficient data to develop the data visualization tool, which is an important first step to enable “order of magnitude” and directional CDW flow analyses for local governments, including the City, to support policy development for CDW recycling and reuse. You cannot truly have zero waste without including CDW.

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