Every year, London produces over 1 million tonnes of organic waste which is destined for landfill. This natural waste will gradually degrade, emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and ultimately contributing to climate change. In a small corner of Poplar, R-Urban aims to change that.

Run by art and architecture practice Public Works, R-Urban brings together local residents and Londoners from across the city who are interested in ecological issues. Using shipping containers housed in a disused car park, R-Urban is a workshop, training and event series that seeks to provide space for green experimentation for solutions to London’s biggest environmental challenges, such as poor air quality and waste management. The site includes a workshop, kitchen, anaerobic digester, tool library and mobile garden, and the project enables local people to come together, learn new skills and enjoy food.

A current focus of experimentation is the anaerobic digester, a machine that consumes household food waste from local homes and turns it into biogas – which fuels the kitchen – and fertiliser which is used across Poplar’s community gardens.

As well as cooking and eating delicious food, R-Urban hosts a series of workshops where people learn basic construction and making skills and find out how to recycle and re-use everyday items.

Residents can borrow items from the tool library to complete DIY at home. Summer schools at the site test green technologies, including living moss walls to mitigate against air pollution. The team are also renovating the space itself into a more accessible area, with green infrastructure such as benches and planting that people can enjoy even when events aren’t running.

R-Urban is working towards a local, sustainable energy model, collectively managed by community members, reducing the carbon footprint of the immediate area and providing new opportunities for training and employment. Through education and demonstrating a successful closed loop system, it’s beginning to address the challenges of waste management in cities, reducing the amount of waste going into landfill.

Accents have supported the project through guaranteed use of space, connections with local community members and as joint partners in delivering project programmes.

"Our collaboration with R-Urban has been fruitful and a lot of fun! The Tower Hamlets Food Growing network brings together people from the borough with an interest in food growing, so R-Urban’s in depth knowledge about food waste is very relevant to our members. R-Urban manages to make some quite technical information very accessible. We have co-organised two wonderful network events, bringing together people from both of our projects to share food, knowledge and ideas. We really appreciate R-Urban’s flexible, down to earth, community focussed organising and I hope we’ll continue to work together long into the future."

Maddy Evans

Women’s Environment Network

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