June 27, 2013

The goal of Ouroborus is to cultivate strategic methods of implementing industrial ecology in New York City by engaging its policymakers and community leaders. The Oubroborus research team found that NYC has a largely untapped potential for industrial symbiosis opportunities – wherein byproduct materials from one industry are utilized as a feedstock for another industry – and the accompanying economic and environmental benefits that these opportunities could accrue.

Our interim report highlights the findings of the project thus far, which has focused on New York City’s urban agriculture, food production, and organic waste management systems. Urban breweries and urban farms provide a simple value proposition: Breweries generate a consistent, valuable byproduct material (spent grain) that they typically must pay to dispose of, while urban farms demand organic material for soil and compost that they typically must pay to acquire. In addition, the urban agriculture sector provides a number of environmental justice benefits to the community, and the organic waste management (composting) sector provides important opportunities for job creation – both of which are key elements of the Ouroborus vision.

By engaging with a number of New York City’s brewing companies, the Ouroborus team learned that all of their spent grain byproduct is collected and hauled outside of the city, to be used as animal feed. Representatives of local composting organizations voiced a desire to use this grain to provide locally-sourced organic material for urban farms and landscaping. However, regulatory obstacles currently prevent these facilities from processing commercially-generated organic waste as they do with public-generated organic waste.

The case studies contribute to the Ouroborus vision for New York City of a more circular, self-sufficient economy, which is laid out in three scenarios at the end of the report.

This webinar features ELP Senior Fellows Chris Garvin, Neil Chambers and Ana Baptista.