New York, New York… gets its green thinking cap on


March 31, 2014 by Tess Riley

It’s a little known fact that Frank Sinatra’s 1979 song about New York originally contained the lines:

‘Oh this would be the perfect city,

if only there could be,

some sort of treatment plant-e,

that converts wastewater and waste food into energeeee.’

Frank Sinatra

They had to cut those lines as turns out Sinatra was actually 35 or so years ahead of his time, but how wonderful that the folks over in said city have now got their green thinking caps firmly on and have invented the aforementioned treatment plant.*

The environmental potential for an urban project like this is enormous as it tackles two big eco pressures at once, and generates clean energy as a result. What’s not to like? So if you want to know more, read on to check out the article I wrote for Green Futures about it (original here) and, as ever, comments below always welcome.

Food and wastewater biogas to heat 5,200 New York homes

A new project at the city’s largest wastewater treatment plant will convert biogas into natural gas for domestic and commercial use. 

The recently announced Newtown Creek Renewable Gas Demonstration Project aims to turn New York City (NYC)’s mounting food waste problem into a solution, diverting organic food waste from landfill and mixing it with wastewater sludge to increase biogas production.

Newtown Creek

Around 40% of the biogas by-product from the municipal wastewater treatment process carried out at the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant is currently reused, helping to power the facility’s operations. The new project will convert biogas from food waste and wastewater into pipeline-quality renewable natural gas that can also be used for residential or commercial purposes. The ultimate goal is to reclaim 100% of the biogas produced by the plant and convert it into power, meaning it will not contribute to the plant’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The project is the first in the United States to directly introduce renewable biogas produced by a wastewater treatment plan into a local distribution system. The predicted outcomes are impressive: enough energy to heat 5,200 homes and a 90,000 metric tonne reduction in GHG emissions, the equivalent of removing almost 19,000 cars from the road according to NYC’s Department of Environmental Protection.


Dr David Fulford, Director of Kingdom Bioenergy Ltd, believes this is an important step in the development of sustainable energy sources: “Shale gas is a quick solution, but leads to longer-term environmental impacts such as climate change. Energy from waste is a longer-term solution, with positive environmental benefit as recycled carbon can be used to offset fossil [fuel] carbon [emissions] and pollution is reduced.”

The Newtown Creek Project is the result of a public-private partnership between New York City, Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant and National Grid. According to the latter, which is funding the project, the capital investment required to deliver the renewable gas across its entire network, which covers four states, would be almost $7 billion. However, this would deliver significant economic and environmental benefits, including 9,000 new local jobs and a 16 million tonne annual reduction in GHGs.

“When you think about the sustainable energy future and renewables”, says Don Chahbazpour, Director of Network Strategy, National Grid, “it’s not just solar and wind. Renewable gas is a unique solution that utilises existing waste streams from a variety of resources and leverages the natural gas network to deliver a renewable fuel.”

The Newtown Creek project forms part of New York City’s PlaNYC goal of reducing municipal GHG emissions by 30% by 2017. Other initiatives include a city-wide extension of the bus service network, support for urban agriculture and turning underutilised spaces into playgrounds.


Liked this blog post? Why not share it with friends and colleagues, and get them humming New York, New York to themselves all day in a frustrating manner too!

*(oh yes, and to those who were taken in by my convincing Sinatra story, I’m sorry to burst the bubble but FS did not actually write those lines. He remains visionary in his own wonderful way though, so fret ye not).





2 thoughts on “New York, New York… gets its green thinking cap on

  1. We watched a short documentary film “The Greening of Southie” about the 2005 construction of a “green” building in Boston. Raised more questions that it answered, but fascinating nonetheless.

    • Tess Riley says:

      Ah brilliant, thanks Barbra & Jack! I will definitely add that to my list of docs to watch. I need some new doc recommendations actually so that’s perfect.

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