One man's trash is another man's treasure has never been truer for these five cities. Faced with massive, disgusting (and toxic) landfills, these cities turned a smelly problem into a wonderful solution: city parks. Prepare to be amazed at what creative leaders, scientists and a concerned public can do when they put their heads together.
With ever increasing urbanization, cities are running out of green spaces and places to put trash. Unfortunately, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that Americans alone produce on average 4.3 pounds of trash each day. And when it comes to our clothing, we throw away an average of 68 pounds of clothing each year!
Cesar Chavez State Park: Berkley, CA
Of course Berkley would be on this list. The city that introduced us to college activism and the Prius, and made kale cool, is once again burnishing their eco-credentials with this expansive park along the water's edge. The undeveloped north end is a haven for wildlife and a wetlands, further adding to its eco-cred. But what you probably don't know is that until 1969 when the Marina Master Plan set this area aside for recreation, it was a landfill!
Pulau Semakau: Singapore
Considering their leader once banned chewing gum and made littering is a criminal offense, it's no surprise that Singapore would make this list. This island off Singapore’s southern coast used to be a fishing village, until it was literally trashed to the point the island became unlivable. Finally, the government converted into a nature preserve earlier this decade, surely a huge relief to the birds and marine life that made the coral reef off the coast their home.
Hiriya Park: Israel
Israel isn't just turning the desert green, they are also in the process of greening the Middle East's largest landfill (a fact that if you've traveled the Middle East, is actually quite shocking). Hiriya is an unmistakably-shaped geographic feature south of Tel Aviv that is easily visible from the air. Started in 2001, Hiriya is in the middle stages of the naturalization process. The landfill is set to become "greenified" by 2020. When finished Hiriya Park will go from the biggest landfill in the region to one of the biggest urban parks in the world.
Freshkills Park: Staten Island, NY
As New Yorkers, we are extremely excited about this new park that's coming soon to Staten Island. We just hope that by the time it's completed that they consider changing the name... Seriously guys? Freshkill park... What were the other names considered? Mutilated rabbit? Bloodied Beaver sanctuary?
Nevertheless, when the entire process of greening is complete, Freshkills Park will be three times larger than New York’s Central Park. That's freaking exciting! Unfortunately the park is still 15 years from being complete. That might seem like a long time from now, but considering that the park will cover what used to be the largest working landfill in the U.S. and create one of the largest urban parks in the world (Take that Hiriya!), we're ok with it.
Al Azhar Park, Cairo Egypt
Up until Al Azhar, Cairo didn't have a single public city park in a city of 20 million! Thankfully, Cairo set free two birds with one stone (can we please reconsider that phrase, it's 2015) by converting one of the largest landfills in the sprawling metropolis into a lovely park for it's residents to enjoy. Nice work Cairo, but maybe time for a second green space?
While the parks below are undoubtedly cool success stories, can we please not let it get this bad again? Thankfully there are some really cool initiatives to lessen the our environmental impact. Many landfill sites have figured out the technology to allow them to convert methane emissions into clean energy. Companies and brands too are turning trash into cool products. Brands like Coca Cola's EkoCycle, Pharrell's bionic yarn and spanish leader EcoAlf, all produce trendy fashion from recycled plastic water bottles and other materials. Modavanti also has a really great Modacycle program to recycle clothing, keeping them out of landfills in the first place. Send in your old clothes, they'll recycle it properly and give you site credit in return. That's a win, win, win.
Moral of the Story: As we produce more trash, we are thankfully getting better about how to reuse it, but isn't it time we focus on reducing our waste in the first place?