WISC Seminar - Open Trash Lab - Nick Johnson

Posted on December 3, 2018


The next WISC seminar will be held at 1pm, on Wednesday 5th December, in MSB2.23.  Nick Johnson, PhD Student at WISC, will give a talk on New York's Open Trash Lab.  A discussion on the subject will follow his talk.

Open Trash Lab: Improving Waste Management Through Data Analytics and Public Participation

Waste management continues to be one of the most challenging issues facing cities today.  Currently, at 3.3 million tons per day, the global production of waste is already becoming unmanageable, and this rate is expected to grow to 11 million tons per day by 2100.  In New York City, residents generate 2.5 million tons of residential waste annually, costing the city nearly half a billion dollars for collection and landfill disposal.  Given these trends, effective urban waste management systems are essential, and in order to provide these services in an environmentally sound and financially sustainable way, there is an urgent need for a basic understanding of the amount and composition of the materials produced, as well as the participation of residents in diversion programs such as recycling and organics collection.  

Given this context, this presentation will discuss current data-driven approaches to understand and forecast waste generation, as well as public participation initiatives that empower citizens to participate in research on trash in order to raise awareness and help mitigate the environmental impacts of trash through improving recycling rates and reducing waste production.  Collectively, these approaches offer new opportunities to understand the complex socio-technical challenges of urban waste management, which can significantly improve efforts to optimize collection and disposal operations in the short term and develop long-term strategies for disposal planning, policy development, and implementation of waste reduction programs.

About the Speaker

Nicholas E. Johnson is a Ph.D. candidate in Urban Science at the University of Warwick's Institute for the Science of Cities and an Assistant Research Scientist at New York University's Center for Urban Science and Progress leading the Quantified Community research initiative.  In 2014, he founded Open Trash Lab – an initiative that enables diverse communities and individuals to actively participate in collecting, analyzing, and visualizing data about trash – resulting in multiple waste-related research initiatives and partnerships with organizations including IBM, the New York City Department of Sanitation and the World Science Festival.  He has received multiple awards and research grants from organizations including Google, UNICEF and UN Global Pulse and he serves as a community organizer for the Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science developing citizen-driven research initiatives.  Nicholas obtained a Masters degree from NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program in 2013 centering his work on exploring the impact and pervasiveness of waste streams in urban environments through data analytics, physical computing and interaction design.  His current research focuses on the design and development of cyber-physical systems for monitoring urban environments and data-driven analyses to understand urban phenomena including waste generation and urban mobility.

News Archive