Recycling urban waste as possible use for rooftop vegetable garden

Baptiste Jean-Paul Grard, Nicolas Bel, Nicolas Marchal, Frederic Madre, Jean-François Castell, Philippe Cambier, Sabine Houot, Nastaran Manouchehri, Stephane Besancon, Jean-Charles Michel, Claire Chenu, Nathalie Frascaria-Lacoste, Christine Aubry



Urban authorities in Europe are confronted with increasing demands by urban dwellers for allotment gardens, but vacant urban soil tends to be scarce and/or polluted by past industrial activities. A possible solution for local authorities could therefore be to promote rooftop gardening. However little technical information exists on certain forms of rooftop urban agriculture, called Z-Farming. In 2012, a pilot experiment was run in Paris (France). Simple and cheap systems of rooftop gardening were tested on a rooftop using as crop substrates only local urban organic waste so as to contribute to the urban metabolism. Production levels and heavy metal contents in cropping substrates and edible vegetables were measured. Available results show (i) high levels of crop production with limited inputs compared to land professional gardening, (ii) low levels of heavy metal pollutants in the edible parts of the crops, especially for Cd and Pb with respect to EU norms for vegetables and (iii) positive influence on yields on organizing the substrate in layers and enhancing the biological activity through earthworm inoculation. These encouraging results allow us to consider that rooftop gardening is feasible and seem to have a great potential to improve urban resiliency. It will nevertheless be necessary to identify more precisely the types of roof that can be used and to assess more fully the generic result of the low level of pollution, as well as the global sustainability of these cropping systems.

Key words: urban farming, urban agriculture, organic waste, green roof, vegetables

Data of the article

First received: 15 January 2015 | Last revision received: 10 May 2015
Accepted: 11 May 2015 | Published online: 20 May 2015

Full Text:



Abad, M., Noguera, P., & Burés, S. (2001). National inventory of organic wastes for use as growing media for ornamental potted plant production: case study in Spain. Bioresource Technology, 77, 0–3.

AFNOR. (2002). NF U 44-551. Retrieved from

Agreste. (2013). Infos rapides. Agreste Infos Rapides, 2–5. Retrieved from

Alloway, B. J. (2004). Contamination of soils in domestic gardens and allotments: a brief overview. Land Contamination & Reclamation, 12(3), 179–187. doi:10.2462/09670513.658

APUR. (2013). Étude sur le potentiel de végétalisation des toitures terrasses à Paris, 39p. Retrieved from

Argouarc’h, J. (2005). Les cultures légumières en agriculture biologique, (Janvier), 1–119. Retrieved from

Aubry, C. (2013). L’agriculture urbaine, contributrice des stratégies alimentaires des mégapoles? Journées Scientifiques de l’Environnement-La. Retrieved from

Aubry, C., Dabat, M., & Mawois, M. (2010). Fonction Alimentaire de l’agriculture urbaine au Nord et au Sud: Permanence et renouvellement des questions de recherche. in Agriculture and Food, 1–13. Retrieved from

Barles, S. (2009). Urban Metabolism of Paris and Its Region. Journal of Industrial Ecology, 13(6), 898–913. doi:10.1111/j.1530-9290.2009.00169.x

Billen, G., Barles, S., Garnier, J., Rouillard, J., & Benoit, P. (2008). The food-print of Paris: long-term reconstruction of the nitrogen flows imported into the city from its rural hinterland. Regional Environmental Change, 9(1), 13–24. doi:10.1007/s10113-008-0051-y

Blouin, M., Hodson, M. E., Delgado, E. a., Baker, G., Brussaard, L., Butt, K. R., … Brun, J.-J. (2013). A review of earthworm impact on soil function and ecosystem services. European Journal of Soil Science, 64(2), 161–182. doi:10.1111/ejss.12025

Boudreau, M. a. (2013). Diseases in intercropping systems. Annual Review of Phytopathology, 51, 499–519. doi:10.1146/annurev-phyto-082712-102246

Cleary, J., Roulet, N. T., & Moore, T. R. (2005). Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Canadian Peat Extraction, 1990–2000: A Life-cycle Analysis. AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment, 34(6), 456. doi:10.1639/0044-7447(2005)034[0456:GGEFCP]2.0.CO;2

Collaert, J.-P. (2010). L’Art du jardin en lasagnes, livre de. (E. Edisud, Ed.). Bordeaux.

DRIAFF. (2013). Laitues d ’ Île-de-France : une production satisfaisante en 2013 et des prix supérieurs à la moyenne quinquennale 2008-2012 . Agri’ Conjoncture Ile-de-France, p1. Retrieved from

Girardet, H. (2008). Cities people planet: urban development and climate change. John Wiley & Sons Incorporated.

Grewal, S. S., & Grewal, P. S. (2012). Can cities become self-reliant in food? Cities, 29(1), 1–11. doi:10.1016/j.cities.2011.06.003

Hernández-Apaolaza, L., Gascó, A. M., Gascó, J. M., & Guerrero, F. (2005). Reuse of waste materials as growing media for ornamental plants. Bioresource Technology, 96(1), 125–31. doi:10.1016/j.biortech.2004.02.028

Hidalgo, A. (2014). “Anne Hidalgo veut de la verdure et des potagers sur les toits de Paris.” Retrieved January 6, 2015, from

Kortright, R. (2001). Evaluating the potential of green roof agriculture. City Farmer. Retrieved from

MacRae, R., Gallant, E., & Patel, S. (2010). Could Toronto provide 10% of its fresh vegetable requirements from within its own boundaries? Matching consumption requirements with growing spaces of Agriculture, Food Retrieved from

Madre, F., Vergnes, A., Machon, N., & Clergeau, P. (2013). A comparison of 3 types of green roof as habitats for arthropods. Ecological Engineering, 57, 109–117. doi:10.1016/j.ecoleng.2013.04.029

Morel, P., Poncet, L., & Rivière, L. (2000). Les supports de culture horticoles: les matériaux complémentaires et alternatifs à la tourbe. Retrieved from

Orsini, F., Gasperi, D., Marchetti, L., Piovene, C., Draghetti, S., Ramazzotti, S., … Gianquinto, G. (2014). Exploring the production capacity of rooftop gardens (RTGs) in urban agriculture: the potential impact on food and nutrition security, biodiversity and other ecosystem services in the city of Bologna. Food Security, 781–792. doi:10.1007/s12571-014-0389-6

Ostos, J. C., López-Garrido, R., Murillo, J. M., & López, R. (2008). Substitution of peat for municipal solid waste- and sewage sludge-based composts in nursery growing media: effects on growth and nutrition of the native shrub Pistacia lentiscus L. Bioresource Technology, 99(6), 1793–800. doi:10.1016/j.biortech.2007.03.033

Pourias, J. (2013). urban allotment gardens in Paris and Montreal Diversity of garden types , diversity of food functions ?, (Jassur 2013), 1681–1692.

Rokia, S., Séré, G., Schwartz, C., & Deeb, M. (2014). Modelling agronomic properties of Technosols constructed with urban wastes. Waste Management. Retrieved from

Säumel, I., Kotsyuk, I., Hölscher, M., Lenkereit, C., Weber, F., & Kowarik, I. (2012). How healthy is urban horticulture in high traffic areas? Trace metal concentrations in vegetable crops from plantings within inner city neighbourhoods in Berlin, Germany. Environmental Pollution (Barking, Essex : 1987), 165, 124–32. doi:10.1016/j.envpol.2012.02.019

Smit, J., & Nasr, J. (1992). Urban agriculture for sustainable cities: using wastes and idle land and water bodies as resources. Environment and Urbanization, 4(2), 141–152. doi:10.1177/095624789200400214

Smit, J., Ratta, A., & Nasr, J. (1996). Urban agriculture: food, jobs and sustainable cities. ( jobs and sustainable cities. Urban agriculture: food, Ed.)Urban agriculture: food, jobs and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). doi:smit1996urban

Smith, O. B., Moustier, P., & Mougeot, L. J. A. (2004). Développement durable de l ’ agriculture urbaine en Afrique francophone Enjeux , concepts et méthodes Développement durable de l ’ agriculture urbaine en Afrique francophone Enjeux , concepts et méthodes Sommaire.

Specht, K., Siebert, R., Hartmann, I., Freisinger, U. B., Sawicka, M., Werner, A., … Dierich, A. (2013). Urban agriculture of the future: an overview of sustainability aspects of food production in and on buildings. Agriculture and Human Values, 31(1), 33–51. doi:10.1007/s10460-013-9448-4

Thomaier, S., Specht, K., Henckel, D., Dierich, A., Siebert, R., Freisinger, U. B., & Sawicka, M. (2014). Farming in and on urban buildings: Present practice and specific novelties of Zero-Acreage Farming (ZFarming). Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, 1–12. doi:10.1017/S1742170514000143

Van Groenigen, J. W., Lubbers, I. M., Vos, H. M. J., Brown, G. G., De Deyn, G. B., & van Groenigen, K. J. (2014). Earthworms increase plant production: a meta-analysis. Scientific Reports, 4(2), 6365. doi:10.1038/srep06365

Veenhuizen, R. Van. (2006). Cities farming for the future: Urban agriculture for green and productive cities. Retrieved from

Whittinghill, L. J., Rowe, D. B., & Cregg, B. M. (2013). Evaluation of Vegetable Production on Extensive Green Roofs. Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, 37(4), 465–484. doi:10.1080/21683565.2012.756847

Wong, C. S. C., Li, X., & Thornton, I. (2006). Urban environmental geochemistry of trace metals. Environmental Pollution (Barking, Essex : 1987), 142(1), 1–16. doi:10.1016/j.envpol.2005.09.004


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Comments on this article

View all comments



 Google Scholar H5 index 3 

Sponsoring Organisations

Logo Agrarekologie Uni Kassel