Most US US Americans do not think twice about discarding unwanted food. However, if we were to pay attention, we would realize that collectively, millions of pounds of food waste is discarded each day. Restaurants and food markets are the biggest culprits, responsible for tossing thousand and thousands of pounds of edible food everyday for very superficial reasons. In New York City alone, over a third of the waste sent to landfill would actually be compostable, but in the anaerobic environment of a landfill, these food scraps will never break down properly.
In 2013, a group of teens set out to solve this problem in Brooklyn, New York with the creation of the organization BK Rot. From the very beginning, this ambitious project has focused on true sustainability; since its inception, the employees use only bicycles with trailers to gather food waste from businesses and residents and they process the organic waste themselves at their outdoor composting site. The compost is then packaged and sold back to the community as fertile compost, which along with their GoFundMe has helped finance their project. This small, but mighty organization has made incredible progress responsible for diverting almost a million pounds of food waste from landfills and converting it into 400 thousand pounds of compost. To top it all off, BK Rot did it all without producing tons of damaging emissions like most industrial composting facilities.
The ambitious program is not only good for the environment, but makes big strides for all of their stakeholders. This organization is operated by and employs predominantly young, people of color, many of whom have struggled to find a meaningful income in a city that experiences high youth unemployment rates. As of 2021, the company has paid their workers over $210,000 in livable wages. Additionally, the young workers and volunteers are afforded the rare opportunity to be surrounded by positive, similarly-minded role models while developing a variety of social and physical skills like composting, as well as organization-specific competencies, like management, business finances, and public outreach. The heads of the programs admit they learn just as much from their young workers about the world around them. It’s also a wonderful opportunity for those involved to get regular exercise outdoors while doing something community-oriented, sustainable, and uplifting, something that can be hard to find today.